Ahead of the election, we sent a letter, co-signed by nearly 60 members of the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition to the leaders of the Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem parties calling on them to prioritse babies, children and young people’s mental health.

The mental health of babies, children and young people is one of the most pressing issues of our time. As a coalition of over 300 organisations, we are writing to urge you to put mental health at the top of the agenda in the forthcoming election and beyond.

Around one in five children and young people in the country now have a mental health problem, up from one in nine in 2017. Too many children and young people also struggle to get the support they need, contending with high thresholds for support, rejected referrals and long waiting times. And failing to act comes at a high cost. Findings from Centre for Mental Health show that the economic and social cost of mental ill health to the country is £300 billion per year.

Yet our new polling reveals that a significant majority of voters (59%) feel that not enough has been done to prioritise children and young people’s mental health over the last decade. This is even higher amongst young people aged 18-24 (69%). In addition, only 23% feel confident that political parties will prioritise children’s needs in the election.

It’s clear we need an urgent change of approach. Voters cited growing up feeling safe online and in communities, with a good education and free from poverty as the top election issues they want to see addressed – factors that are critical in promoting and supporting positive mental health. Voters are also clear on the action they want to see from political parties. Over two-thirds said they want to see mental health support embedded in local communities – like in schools and early support hubs – coupled with more investment in mental health services.

That’s why we believe all political parties should:

  • Commit at least an additional £1.7bn per year for Integrated Care Systems to deliver a comprehensive mental health pathway for all babies, children and young people.[1]
  • Embed whole educational approaches to mental health and wellbeing across all education settings.
  • Increase the provision of early intervention support in the community through the national roll-out of early support hubs in every local area.
  • Bring forward reform of the Mental Health Act 1983.

These commitments are costed, well-evidenced and rooted in the needs of young people and their families. As a sector, we stand ready to work with whoever forms the next Government to implement these reforms.

We call on you as leader of your party to put children and young people at the heart of your election campaign, so that together we can achieve the change that is so desperately needed for babies, children and young people.

Yours faithfully,

Amy Whitelock Gibbs, Chair, Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition

Andy Bell, CEO, Centre for Mental Health

Andrew Radford, Chief Executive, Beat

Arti Sharma, Chief Executive Officer, Nurture UK

Bec Jasper, Founder and Director, PACT Parents and Carers Together CIC

Cassandra Harrison, CEO, Youth Access

Catherine Gordon, Director of Learning, Knowledge Change Action

Catherine Roche, Chief Executive, Place2Be

Claire Dorer OBE, Chief Executive Officer, NASS (National Association of Special Schools)

Dom Smithies, Head of Influencing and Communications, Student Minds

Dr Amanda Gummer, Chair, Association of Play Industries

Dr Carol Homden, CEO, Coram Group

Dr Cath Lower, General Secretary, Association of Educational Psychologists

Dr Hannah Vickery, CEO, The Charlie Waller Trust

Dr James Cusack, CEO, Autistica

Dr Trudi Seneviratne OBE, Registrar, Royal College of Psychiatrists

Dr Phil James, CEO, BACP

Dr Tessy Ojo CBE, CEO, The Diana Award

Emma Rigby, Chief Executive, Association of Young People’s Health

Felicity Biacsi, Neurological Music Therapist, Chiltern Music Therapy

Fergus Crow, CEO, Winston’s Wish

Kamna Muralidharan, Programme Director Impact on Urban Health

Kate Wareham, Strategic Director for Young people, families and communities, Catch22

Kathryn Pugh MBE, Director, KCBD Limited

Keith Reed, CEO, Parent Infant Foundation

Kirsty McHugh, Chief Executive, Carers Trust

Kiz Crosbie, CEO, Mortal Fools

Laura Bunt, Chief Executive, Young Minds

Leigh Wallbank, CEO, OCD action

Lisa Caroll, CEO, Lifespace Trust

Lissa Shortt, Centre Director, Counselling Pastoral Trust

Louisa Rose, CEO, Beyond

Louise King, Director of the Children’s Rights Alliance for England, Just for Kids Law

Lucie Russell, Chief Executive, Redthread

Lucy Bailey, Chief Executive and Founder, Bounce Forward

Maggie Cleary, CEO, SEND the Right Message Charity

Mark Lee, Chief Executive, Together Trust

Mark Russell, Chief Executive, The Children’s Society

Matt Buttery, CEO, Triple P

Natalie Webb, CEO, No Limits Help

Neil Moggan, Founding Director, Future Action

Pascale Berthellet, Senior public health practitioner

Paul Wright, Director of Public Health and Political Affairs, Children’s Alliance

Paula Farrow, CEO, MyOTAS

Pauline Daniyan, CEO, London Youth

Peter Leonard, Chief Executive, The Centre for Emotional Health

Rachel Bundock, CEO, Compass

Rachel Kimberley Temple, Public Involvement in Research Manager, McPin Foundation

Rose Dowling, CEO, Leaders Unlocked

Sarah Hughes, CEO, Mind

Sara Jones, Director-Impact Incubator, Social Finance

Shantanu Kundu, Chief Executive, Be Free campaign

Sharron Smith, CEO, York Carers Centre

Simone Spray, CEO, 42nd Street

Tara Leathers, Director, Prudence Trust

Val, Senior Strategy and Operations Manager, YPAS

Vicki Beevers, CEO and Founder, The Sleep Charity

Wendy Minhinnett BEM, Founder/ Director, Rollercoaster

[1] This is based on calculations of NHS Integrated Care Systems planned spend of £998m in 2022/23 on children and young people’s mental health (excluding eating disorders) which met approximately 37% of estimated diagnosable levels of need in England.