In November, we launched our manifesto for babies, children and young people’s mental health, which outlined the action needed from political parties in the upcoming election to improve mental health outcomes for all babies, children and young people,  With party manifestos now published and with only weeks to go until the election, we explore how far the three major political parties (Labour, Lib Dem and Conservatives) have committed to action on babies, children and young people’s mental health.

  1. Increasing investment in mental health services

The manifestos make no funded commitments on children mental health services. In fact, it is only the Lib Dem manifesto that makes reference to funding, setting out pledges to address the underfunding of children’s mental health services and to increase the Public Health Grant.

Without commitments to increase investment, there is a risk that children’s mental health services will not see the improvement or growth that is needed to meet the rising levels of demand. There are already concerns that current service provision is at risk of crumbling, therefore it is crucial that any new government prioritises funding for mental health services to ensure that no child or young person is left without the support they need.

  1. Embedding whole education approaches in all settings

Positively, all three political parties have committed to increasing the availability of mental health support in education settings. For Labour and Lib Dems, this translates into a mental health professional in all schools, whilst the Conservatives have committed to the full roll out of Mental Health Support Teams to 100% of schools and colleges by 2030.

What is missing, however, is any commitment to embedding whole education approaches to mental health and wellbeing across schools and colleges. Such approaches ensure that all parts of a setting’s culture actively promote, protect and support mental health and wellbeing. The Lib Dem manifesto states that the University Mental Health Charter will be made statutory, but there are no commitments to whole education approaches in any other setting.

Increased mental health support in schools must sit alongside full roll out of whole education approaches to ensure that mental health is truly embedded in the education system.

  1. Increasing the availability of early intervention support

We are really pleased to see commitments across Labour, Lib Dem and Conservative manifestos to roll out early support hubs in every local area. We are proud partners in Fund the Hubs campaign alongside, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), Centre for Mental Health, Black Thrive Global, The Children’s Society, Mind, Youth Access and YoungMinds, which has long been calling for a national network of early supports to be established.  We want to see these hubs rolled out as quickly as possible to ensure that all children and young people can access early support with their mental health.

  1. Reforming the Mental Health Act

We are also pleased to see reform of the Mental Health Act in all three manifestos, but it is only the Conservative Party who has set a timeline to pass a new Mental Health Bill in the first session of the next Parliament. We will be pushing to ensure that a new Mental Health Bill is included in the first King’s Speech on 17th July whoever forms the next government, and for this to explicitly protect and promote the rights of children and young people.

What further action is needed?

Whilst we welcome the commitments made by the political parties on children and young people’s mental health, there are still areas that have been left unaddressed. For example, no manifesto mentions infant mental health, which we know is so important in preventing problems emerging later in life.

There is also a significant lack of detail across the manifestos on how the political parties will tackle the social determinants of poor mental health if they were to form the next Government. The pledges by Labour and Lib Dem to tackle child poverty are welcome, but crucially no party has committed to ending the two-child limit, which would have an immediate impact on the lives of so many children and families.

No matter who forms the next government, it is crucial that they put the mental health of babies, children and young people at the top of their agenda.