As 2021 draws to a close, we wanted to reflect on the work we have achieved over the past year. The support of our members has been invaluable, and we would like to say a massive thank you to you all for the support you have given us and for the work you have continued doing under challenging circumstances.

Our top 5 highlights from 2021 include:

Membership of the Coalition has continued to grow this year, and we now have a fantastic 249 members. We believe our growing membership represents a rallying call from the sector that we need to work together to prioritise the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people.

We know that our members have been working harder than ever to ensure that the mental health of babies, children and young people is supported. We would like to say a massive thank you to all of our members for their amazing work!

2021 kicked off with the Government launching their plans on reforming the Mental Health Act 1983. As a Coalition representing the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people, it was crucial that we thought through how the proposed changes would impact on them. We bought together a brilliant group of experts from Article 39, Centre for Mental Health, Just Equality, Mind, the National Children’s Bureau, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England, and YoungMinds to help us put together our response to the consultation.

Overall, we were concerned that little consideration was given to how the proposed reforms would impact on children and young people, and we highlighted specific areas where we believed further thought needed to be given on how the proposals would work for this group. You can read more about our concerns in the blog we wrote.

Following our response, it was welcome to see the Government recognise the needs of children and young people in their response to the consultation. As a new Bill enters Parliament next year, we will work hard to ensure the voices of children and young people continue to be represented.

In 2015, we worked with Public Health England to produce the first ever guidance document for education settings on implementing a whole school or college approach to mental health and wellbeing. This year, we partnered with Public Health England and the Department for Education to provide an update to the guidance.  The refresh of  the guidance felt timely given the many changes we have seen in children and young people’s mental health support over the last six years, not forgetting the Covid-19 pandemic.

The document was updated to reflect changes in policy context, national prevalence data, the school inspection framework, sources of support and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. We would like to say a big thank you to those members who helped input into the document. Find out more about the work we did to update the guidance in this blog. As we recover from the pandemic, the guidance provides the opportunity for mental health and wellbeing to really be placed at the heart of educational recovery.

We were proud to join forces with Centre for Mental Health, Black Thrive Global, The Children’s Society, Mind, Youth Access and YoungMinds to launch the Fund the Hubs campaign.  The campaign called for a national network of early support hubs to ensure that children and young people aged 11-25 can get early support with their mental health.

We kicked off the campaign by asking the public to email their MP asking for them to write to Boris Johnson in support of hubs. As we headed towards the Spending Review in Autumn, we ramped up campaign activity. This included over 5,000 young people signing an open letter to Rishi Sunak, and over 53 organisations signing a joint letter which was published in the Telegraph. To find out more about all the amazing work that has taken place during the campaign, then read this blog from Youth Access.

We will continue to work with our campaign partners in the new year to ensure that early support for children and young people’s mental health is prioritised.

In November, we launched our Members’ Report 2021. In the report, we reflect on the impact of the pandemic from the perspective of our members, children and young people, and parents/carers, and we explore the mental health support that is available in education, community and health settings.

The report finds that although mental health problems have been rising among children and young people, from a rate of one in nine in 2017 to one in six in 2021, mental health support is not keeping pace with the scale of change and investment that is needed. The Covid-19 pandemic has also placed additional pressures on mental health support services, with many of our members from the voluntary and community sector reporting a surge in demand for their services.

The report highlights the change that is needed in mental health support for children and young people, and calls for long-term, cross-departmental approach alongside greater investment in preventative and early intervention support.

Towards the new year

As we look towards 2022, we can expect to see further change for children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing, for example, the Government will begin work on their mental health plan and a new Mental Health Bill (to replace the Mental Health Act 1983) will enter parliament.   At the Coalition, we will continue to work hard to ensure we have a mental health system that prioritises and invests in babies, children and young people.

Author: Charlotte Rainer
14th December 2021