Heworth Councillor Bob Webb
Heworth Councillor Bob Webb

Heworth’s Labour councillor Bob Webb has proposed that the Children, Education and Communities Scrutiny committee reviews Children’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Services provided by City of York Council, including how they are supporting young people across the city. National evidence suggests that the rates of children and young people presenting with mental health conditions not being met by professional intervention that is both timely and suitable, is rising. Children and young people are being left untreated at a time when there is a higher number suffering emotional distress than ever before.

Available data shared at the council’s Children’s Scrutiny meeting in January shows that increasing numbers of young people are turning to self-harm, with hospital admissions over the last five years rising by almost 93% among girls and 45% among boys. It was recently revealed that the number of young people being admitted to hospital with a mental health problem or as the result of self-harm in York has hit a new high.

Cllr Webb said: “I put this proposal forward in advance of the charity Place2Be’s Children’s Mental Health Week with this year’s theme, ‘Find your Brave’. Bravery comes in many different forms and potentially one of the bravest things a young person can do is ask for help or talk about their feelings or worries. I’m glad that Mental Health and Wellbeing has risen up the political agenda recently and is now being talked about more openly in society, in the workplace and across our city.

“I know that this is in part to do with the excellent work in schools to raise awareness and support our young people. However, schools alone cannot deal with the volume and in some cases the severity of the concerns raised. This is why I am glad to propose that we look at what work we can do as an authority to build on our support for children and young people”.

A Labour motion agreed by the council in December 2018, including by those parties now running the council, stated that mental health outcomes should be given parity with educational outcomes when evaluating city-wide school performance and improvement. And Coun. Webb has cautioned statutory bodies against taking only a reactive approach to mental health, arguing that tackling the root causes will have a far more positive impact in the long term. He said he expected the review to recognise the existing valuable contributions of local mental health champions and school wellbeing services in the city.

“Young people have tougher lives than a lot of people recognise and local support services do recognise that,” he added, “but the pressures of social media and the ‘constantly switched on’ culture that it creates, exam stress and a national curriculum that barely fits the demands of an ever more demanding future, can lead to real anxieties and depression.  It’s easy to look at this as an older person and downplay it when comparing with our own experiences, but these pressures in a child’s formative years can have serious and long-lasting consequences”.

Cllr Webb pointed out that local government has a duty to promote good mental health in individuals and communities. It can do this in a number of ways; but with cuts to budgets over the past decade, both in health and in education, this has led to services becoming strained and fragmented. “Hopefully this is a peak and numbers will begin to fall but it would be remiss of councillors not to take the opportunity to examine how local services are meeting the needs of children and young people across York”.

A cross-party Task Group has been agreed that will soon start work on its review.

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