Youth Access submission to inquiry on mental health support for children and young people

Youth Access have made a submission in response to the UK Parliament Health & Social Care Committee's inquiry to examine progress made by Government on its ambitions to improve mental health services for children and young people.

The submission draws on the experiences of Youth Access members, as well as our work with young people to gather their views on how the mental health system should be transformed to put forward the following key points:

  • Young people have the right to the best possible standard of mental health and to be involved in decisions about what that looks like and how it should be achieved, at both the individual and the system level.
  • Mental health does not exist in a vacuum. Young people are clear that they want mental health support that responds to their ‘whole life’, and which helps them to address the various social, economic and emotional challenges along the journey into adulthood.
  • The commitments outlined in the Green Paper and the NHS Long Term plan do not go far enough in offering this ‘whole life’ support for young people’s wellbeing, though both pose important opportunities to tap into the skills and community connections of voluntary sector services and thus to cater to young people outside of medical and educational settings.
  • Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) services are well-placed to respond to the diverse range of needs facing young people. Many local services, such as those in the Youth Access network, already play an essential role bridging the ‘cliff edge’ between children’s and adults services and in serving young people who typically face poor access, experience and outcomes in statutory provision.
  • Investment in ‘one-stop-shops’ such as Youth Access YIACS was recommended in Future in Mind, but funding remains patchy and unsustainable, with no accountability on any agency to ensure the full model of open access Youth Information and Advice is provided.
  • The implementation of the ‘0-25’ offer outlined in the NHS Long Term Plan poses another opportunity to genuinely centre prevention and early intervention through investing in this model of open access, young person-centred support. However, accountability must go beyond the health system and budget should be drawn from both children’s and adults’ provision.
  • Plans for the expansion and training of the mental health workforce should mirror this ‘whole life’ approach; capitalising on the diverse professions in the voluntary sector, such as counselling, youth work and advice as well as peer support from young people with lived experience.
  • All future planning and decision-making for the mental health system should put the voices of children and young people at the centre, creating more accessible opportunities for young people who face inequalities and are typically underrepresented to be heard.

Download the full submission