Mental health a “top priority” Government tells British Youth Council

The Government has today (Thursday 25th February 2016) released its Official Response to the British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee Report – ‘Young People’s Mental Health’. The joint response from the Department for Education and Department of Health declares mental health and well-being as a ‘top priority in both departments’. It goes on to state that mental health has been “undervalued, underfunded and under prioritised for far too long”.

The Government has taken on board a number of the committee’s recommendations and has committed to “work with young people throughout” as it implements a number of measures. The response continues to state that “It is crucial that we work with young people throughout these changes – as only young people truly understand what they need from their services.” Both departments have acknowledged in particular the role of schools and the curriculum to prepare young people by providing a mental, as well as a physical, health education.

Alistair Burt MP, Minister for Community and Social Care and Sam Gyimah MP, Minister for Childcare and Education praised a “well – informed and thoughtful report” and highlighted the Youth Select Committee’s  “professionalism, passion and ability to ask the right questions”.

The response follows the Youth Select Committee’s inquiry, which launched in April 2015, considered both written and oral evidence and concluded that mental health services for young people are critically underfunded, with much work required to break down the stigma associated with mental health problems. In the report, published in November 2015, the Committee offered recommendations across three key areas: funding and the state of services, a role for education and awareness, stigma and digital culture.

Throughout the inquiry evidence was gathered from a range of witnesses, including charities, young people, academics, Ministers and health and education professionals. The inquiry was triggered after the issue topped the UK Youth Parliament’s Make Your Mark ballot in 2014 of 877,488 young people in the UK. It remains a priority campaign for 2016.

Following the publication of the report, the Department of Health has commissioned a review of the “You’re Welcome” toolkit which assesses the level and quality of youth friendly services.

Rhys Hart,Chair of the Youth Select Committee said:”The Youth Select Committee’s comprehensive investigation discovered some important and serious issues around the current state of young people’s mental health services, we’re glad to see the Government accept our findings and are not only acting on some of our recommendations but have also made it clear mental health is a priority at both the Department for Education and Department of Health. Young people need to be at the forefront of the changes being made so I’m delighted to see the Government have committed to working with young people throughout.”

Alistair Burt MP, Minister for Community and Social Care, said: “When I first met with the Youth Select Committee I was struck by their passion and commitment; it gave me great hope for the young people they represent all across the country. As we start the biggest transformation of youth mental health services in the history of the NHS through our 1.4 billion investment, it is vital that we continue to involve young people every step of the way.”

Sam Gyimah MP, Minister for Childcare and Education, with responsibility for young people’s mental health, said: “I have been genuinely impressed by the dedication of the Youth Select Committee to raise awareness of the challenges that young people with mental health issues face. We are at a turning point in how we tackle children’s mental wellbeing, however, it is only by working together with young people that we can make a genuine difference.

“We have already taken significant steps with more funding for charities that support young people’s mental health, advice to schools on how to improve counselling for pupils and a pilot scheme to look at better ways of linking schools and local health services. Now we are turning to young people to hear directly from them about how we can help them support their peers. We will use their feedback to inform new projects which we’re backing with £1.5million.”

Download Government Response to the Youth Select Committee’s Report on ‘Young People’s Mental Health’.