Budget 2021: Young people’s mental health missed

The Chancellor has given his Autumn Statement setting out the Conservative government’s spending priorities for the next year. Mental health care services, however, have been short changed and neglected once again.

The Government’s own budget research states that “Mental health and wellbeing have suffered during lockdowns, and anxiety and depression levels are now consistently higher than pre-pandemic averages”. Despite this, the Chancellor made no reference to mental health support in his speech and no new money for mental health services, let alone extra money to tackle the mental health crisis facing children and young people.

Hundreds of thousands of young people today are struggling with their mental health and far too often they cannot access support when they need it. Latest data from the NHS suggests that one in six young people now has a probable mental health disorder, up from one in nine in 2017. In a survey for YoungMinds in 2019, three-quarters of young people said they could not find support when they first needed it.

That is why dozens of mental health organisations – including Mind, YoungMinds and the Centre for Mental Health – have founded the #FundTheHubs campaign to get an early support hub in every community. Early support hubs provide open, flexible, early mental health support for young people aged 11 to 25 in their local communities.

Whilst some support hubs already exist, they do not have the consistent, long-term funding they need to offer stability and there are too few of them around the country. Early interventions don’t just have life-changing impacts for service users, but they also massively lower the likelihood of individuals having to access other support services later on in life. This not only makes social sense, it makes economic sense to invest in young people’s mental health.

Wouldn’t it be brilliant for the Liberal Democrats to be the Parliamentary champions of the Fund the Hubs campaign, for local Liberal Democrat leaders to pass dozens of motions calling for a funded early support hub for their community, and for young people’s mental health to finally get the support and the resources it so desperately needs?

* James Cox is a teacher in Oxfordshire, an Executive member of Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary exec member and has a Master’s degree in Public Policy.

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