25 July 2022
London Youth welcomes the opportunity to respond to the government’s call for evidence on a cross-government 10 year plan for mental health and wellbeing for England.
There is, sadly, overwhelming evidence of the escalating mental health crisis currently facing children and young people. This is particularly prevalent post-pandemic in London and across the UK. The current scale of the problem was most recently highlighted in the Children’s Commissioner Big Ask survey. Half a million children and young people responded to this questionnaire.
The survey responses show that mental health was the single biggest concern for children and young people. And critically, it highlighted that they perceive mental health as being inseparable from their physical health.
All of this underpins the importance of access to outdoor activities for all young people to promote good mental health. This is a core pillar of London Youth’s mission.
As the lead youth infrastructure platform for London, our response is informed by member-led focus groups and with our Youth Board. Our summary views can be best captured under the three mental health pillars of promotion, prevention and intervention.
- Youth work in all community settings underpins the positive wellbeing of tens of thousands of young people. Among others, the impact of London Youth programmes such as Good for Girls and Head Start Action provide heartening testimonials to this.
- Without the safe space and the trusted youth worker for a young person to confide in, many more young lives would be blighted by more chronic mental ill-health, or worse.
- The youth sector needs long-term, sustainable funding to fulfil its core purpose: this requires a more systematic cross-government approach to identify policy and funding synergies for young people.
- Prevention and early intervention is where the focus should be in improving the mental health outcomes for young people.
- Nearly half of our members provide mentoring support for young people, which can underpin that vital sense of wellbeing and ward-off poor mental health. This sits alongside the life-affirming and confidence-building experiences provided by access to community sports, arts, drama and other leisure pursuits.
- The value of such wrap-around support for young people is reflected in the testimonies of our members, and by external research. King’s College London’s three-year study, ‘Rethinking Impact, Evaluation and Accountability in Youth Work’ is the most recent articulation of this.
- The scale of investment needed in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) to respond to all young people’s prevention and intervention needs is unlikely to be realised. In that context, our challenge as a sector and as civil society is to enhance and develop the skills of youth workers to have those holding conversations with young people that are so vital.
- We also need casework supervision for youth workers which isn’t reliant on limited grassroots resources and short-term funding. Whilst we are playing our part at London Youth, including by piloting an initiative in one London borough (Cornerstone) which will help youth workers triage young people to the right intervention, this needs to be part of a fully-funded, nationwide solution.
- Building on the view that we need more effective alternatives to stand-alone CAMHS interventions, facilitating a framework for more open and innovative collaboration between community-based youth organisations and place-based statutory services is critical. This is a policy initiative that should be pivotal in taking forward a 10 year mental health plan.
Our CEO, Rosemary Watt-Wyness said:
“One-in-four young people said they’ll never recover from the emotional impact of the pandemic in a 2022 survey. It has never been so urgent to mitigate the effects of this crisis on young people whose lives may otherwise be permanently blighted by poor mental health.
Prevention and early intervention must be at the heart of a 10 year cross-government mental health and wellbeing plan. As the largest youth infrastructure provider in London we know this must also recognise the core contribution of youth work and provide sustainable funding for its workforce.”
What our Youth Board have to say
If you want to have your voice heard, why not join our Policy Advisory Group? Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org