Funding boost for children’s mental health support

A new research report has helped to secure an £85,000 funding boost for children’s mental health support in the Yorkshire Dales. 

This comes at a time when social workers are seeing record numbers of children with mental health problems, an increase of more than 50% in five years, latest local government figures show.* 

An alarming number of children and young people who experience mental health problems aren’t getting the help they need, with some children in young people who live in the countryside making 80 mile round-trips to receive mental health support. 

A new report entitled “Children and Young People’s Mental Health in Rural North Craven” has highlighted the need for a new approach which focuses on the strengths and abilities of the people in our rural towns and villages. 

In particular, short-term interventions without a clear exit strategy were criticised by parents and children alike, with one young person saying, “if I get help it’s only for a few weeks but I’ve had these problems for years and they aren’t going to go away after I’ve finished the programme”. 

The report, prepared by Emma Pears from SELFA Children’s Charity for the West Yorkshire Health & Care Partnership, has identified a lack of accessible mental health services in rural North Craven. This need can’t simply be addressed through more NHS or Local Authority staff, as more services are just not viable for such a sparse population. 

Emma Pears, SELFA’s Chief Officer, said: “When my daughter was eight years old, she started to show signs of emotional distress, both at school and at home. She is 17 now and thriving. Her mental health is good because of the support she’s had over the years; but if her journey has taught me anything it is this: that children’s emotional well-being is just as important as their physical health.” 

many children and young people who live in rural areas like the Yorkshire Dales will only be offered a mental health service if they can travel, or the alternative is to receive support over the phone or on a video call, whereas a child who lives in a town like Harrogate or Keighley will be offered a face-to-face service close to where they live.” 

The main finding of the report was that we need to look at strengthening community support through building peer support networks for not only children and young people, but their parents and the professionals who work to support this. 

The protective factor of having networks of support including family and friends was also significantly diminished for children and young people experiencing mental health support needs and their families. Parents said they had moved to the countryside ‘for a better life’, but then found they could not access the additional support their child needed with their mental health later down the line, and they also didn’t have local support networks.   

As a result of this piece of work SELFA has been successful in their application to charitable trust to set up peer support groups for children & young people who are experiencing mental health issues and their parents/carers. These projects will start in early 2023. 

There will also be an annual face-to-face mental health event, where young people with lived experience of mental health issues come together with professionals in education, health, social care and the voluntary sector. 

The research is part of The Health Equity Fellowship Programme, part of the West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership Health Inequalities Academy. The fellowship programme seeks to develop colleagues across West Yorkshire who understand the foundations of health inequity and have the knowledge, skills, and courage to build more equitable organisations and communities. 

Dr Sohail Abbas, Director of the Reducing Inequalities Alliance for Bradford District and Craven Health and Care Partnership said: “The aim of the health equity fellowship programme is to equip people with the skills needed to understand and address inequalities from their specific role within the system. We are fortunate to have very passionate people and this programme is harnessing the enthusiasm of people like Emma who are making a real difference in the lives of people across our communities”

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