The government will spend an extra £250m a year for five years on child and adolescent mental health services (CMAHs), deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has told his party’s spring conference
The funding rise is set to be unveiled in the budget this week and is being viewed as an attempt to head off criticism that government rhetoric on mental health has not been matched by reality, with trusts reporting year-on-year cuts.
Speaking to the conference yesterday, Mr Clegg said: “This huge expansion – £1.25bn over the course of the next parliament – will help around 110,000 children, children who at the moment are being let down by the system.
“It’s an institutionalised form of cruelty, the way we allow vulnerable children with mental health problems to basically have to fend for themselves at the moment,” he said.
“This big announcement I’m making is going to seek to change that. It won’t happen overnight, it will happen over the coming years,” said the Liberal Democrat leader.
Mr Clegg added: “It’s all part of a journey where we start, as a country, lifting the stigma that has surrounded mental health and making sure that we treat mental health in the same way as we do people with physical health problems.”
“NHS nurses, therapist and doctors will use this funding to benefit families in every part of the country”
Welcoming the announcement, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens described the funding as “an important boost”.
“This much needed investment will kick-start a multi-year upgrade in care for younger people and their families,” he said. “NHS nurses, therapist and doctors will use this funding to benefit families in every part of the country.”
However, it is unclear at this stage how the increase will be funded and how it will be distributed.
An £80m investment this year – made ahead of new mental health access targets – was criticised because after around half was allocated from existing budgets and the remainder came from NHS England.
The new investment announcement follows severe real-terms cuts in child and adolescent mental health services over recent years. In January, NHS England data showed budgets for CAMHs services had fallen by 4.5% from £751m in 2010-11 to £717m in 2012-13.
Hilary Cass, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said children and young peoples’ mental health services had been a “Cinderella service for far too long” and that the funding announcement was “very welcome indeed”.
“We very much hope that the government will commit to collect regular data on the prevalence of mental health conditions so we can plan services effectively for the future,” she said.
“This extra funding in child and adolescent mental health services is urgently needed”
Mark Winstanley, chief executive of the charity Rethink, said: “This extra funding in child and adolescent mental health services is urgently needed. Every week we hear shocking stories about children being held in police cells, or sent hundreds of miles away from home for care, because the right support isn’t available in their own community.”
Earlier this month, the Royal College of Nursing called for investment in children’s nurses “across all health settings”.
The call came in response to a report from the Children and Young People’s Health Outcomes Forum showing that the UK’s child mortality rate remains above those of many other European countries.
The forum urged the next government to develop and implement a national children’s health strategy to bring down child mortality rates in the UK.