Charities call on Government to put mental health first for children and young people and stop school exclusions this year
Children are at risk of worsening mental health from a combination of the Covid-19 pandemic and rising poverty and inequality, warns a new report by a coalition of over 200 organisations.
In our first Annual Report, we shine a light on the challenges and opportunities we face in 2020 to protect the mental health of infants, children, and young people in England.
Among its comprehensive findings, the report raises concerns about the growing levels of poverty and inequality and their impact on infant, children and young people’s mental health. It says that concerted and urgent action is needed to promote good mental health and prevent future mental health difficulties before it is too late. This includes a call to stop all school exclusions this academic year.
The report explores the impact so far of the Covid-19 pandemic on children’s mental health and what we can expect in the year to come. It finds that the pandemic has already heightened inequalities that were already there, and it will present challenges for schools, colleges and universities to make pupils, students and staff feel safe and secure this academic year.
For many children and young people, the pandemic is compounding traumatic experiences for various reasons, including abuse, neglect and bereavement. This may manifest in their behaviour in school. We must ensure schools are equipped with the support and tools they need to respond effectively, including an understanding of how trauma affects children’s behaviour.
Digital and remote support for mental health care has blossomed in response to the pandemic, with the report highlighting innovation and improvements. But this may leave behind children and young people who do not have access to the internet, to the right hardware, or to safe spaces at home to engage with mental health support online.
The report calls on the Government to make 2020 the year we put children’s mental health first. It must address the growing inequalities in mental health arising from economic inequality and systemic racism. It should develop a clear and comprehensive mental health strategy for all infants, children, and young people to go alongside its plans to increase access to mental health support.
And it should introduce a moratorium on school exclusions over the next academic year so that pupils have the time to adapt to changes, including social distancing measures, and not be punished for behaviour problems, when they need support most.
Sir Norman Lamb, Chair of the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition, said: “We believe that no one should be at greater risk of poor mental health because of who they are or what environment they are in. No one’s mental health should be made worse because of their race, sexual or gender identity, or socioeconomic status. Yet the effect of the pandemic is only widening existing inequalities in health and healthcare.
The severity of the situation cannot be overstated. The future is so uncertain for children and young people currently, and it is up to all of us to make it brighter for them. We hope this report, and all the work from our incredible members within it, can help build that brighter future, and put children and young people’s mental health first.”