Fund the Hubs – what’s happened and what’s next?

As we approach the conclusion of the Government's Spending Review and Autumn Budget, Youth Access and our peers across the youth and mental health sectors wait with baited breath to see if our collective call for investment in early support hubs will make it into Government plans. Our Policy and Campaigns Manager, Kahra Wayland-Larty, sets out the history and progress of the Fund The Hubs campaign over the past two years.

We’ve been campaigning for hubs for a long time. Since Youth Access was founded back in the 1990s, we’ve been calling for investment in Youth Information Advice and Counselling services (YIACS) – local youth-friendly services, where young people can easily access support on a range of issues which impact their mental health, right up to age 25. 

But since 2019, we’ve really ramped up our efforts by joining forces with our allies in the youth and mental health sector. As part of the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition, we’ve been able to work more closely with our friends at Young Minds, the Children’s Society, Mind and Black Thrive Global. Through this work, we’ve realised that what we’re hearing from young people across the board is the same – increasing mental health support in schools and clinical services is a welcome investment, but what’s missing in many local areas, are services like YIACS, where young people can access support without a referral or appointment, without a long wait and beyond age 18. And that’s where we agreed to start working together for ‘early support hubs’ that could offer exactly this. 

Back in March 2020, just before ‘Covid’ became part of the global vocabulary, we kickstarted a coordinated effort with our friends at The Children’s Society, Young Minds, Mind and the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition. Together we were advocating for investment in what we were then calling  ‘open access hubs’. 

At that time, the Government was planning the Spring Budget, not knowing that the pandemic would throw this totally off track! Together with our coalition partners, we produced a submission, calling on the Treasury to invest in ‘open access hubs’ nationally, and sent briefings to key MPs to prepare them to raise the issue at the Budget debate.  

Since then, the world changed, and the need for hubs has become even more evident. Young people’s mental health is suffering as a result of the pandemic, and the social factors which underpin their wellbeing have taken massive hits too. They’ve been cut off from friends, family and education, they’ve missed out on key milestones and formative experiences, and they’ve suffered the sharp edge of the economic shock, with higher rates of job losses, furlough, housing insecurity and debt. It’s a stressful time to be making the journey into adulthood. 

Hubs can help alleviate that stress, by supporting young people to the navigate the challenges that life throws up and deal with emerging mental health issues before they spiral. This might look like accessing counselling over a few sessions to help with an emotional issue. Or   getting advice on a tricky issue, such as accessing the right benefits or managing your bills. It might be a combination of these things – making sure that the root cause of stress is dealt with, along with the emotional distress. 

So, over the past year and a half, we’ve stepped up our efforts – and the pressure on the Government – to invest in early support hubs. Here’s a timeline of our work. What comes next will depend on what Rishi Sunak announces in the spending review and Autumn Budget on Wednesday, but whatever the Budget might hold, we know that with our members and the young people we serve, we’ll continue to be a powerful voice for young people’s right to better mental health support.  

On 27th October, Rishi Sunak will announce the Budget, which we hope will include funding for a national network of early support hubs, building on existing support from services like YIACS. Watch this space!