Mental health policy

We empower young people to fight for their fundamental right to age-appropriate mental health support that meets their individual needs.

Access to mental healthcare is a human right. It is set out in international agreements that the UK has signed up to, which specify that high quality healthcare, including support for mental health, should be accessible, widely available to people where they are, and acceptable to people with differing needs. Crucially, this means that the mental health system should be providing care that is appropriate for all age groups.

When it comes to young people though, it is clear that this right is far from being met. Young people transitioning into adulthood have very specific needs, but services that cater for them are in short supply. All over the UK, young people are left waiting unacceptable lengths of time for access to NHS Children and Young People’s Mental Health Services (CYPMHS), which are often unable to meet the needs of older children and young adults accessing support independently, and rarely offer any support to young people after the age of 18. This leaves many young people without access to services at an age where, data suggests, they are often most in need of support.

At Youth Access, we believe that young people with lived experience should be trusted as experts in decisions made about their own care, as well as how the wider mental health system is run. And when we ask young people what they think mental health services should look like, their answers align with the principles of the rights-based approach laid out in international law.

We work with young people across the UK and support them to campaign for the transformation they want to see in the mental health system through the youth-led Our Minds Our Future campaign. Together they have organised local events engaging young people around the country, and taken their call for age-appropriate mental health services that meet young people’s human rights directly to policy-makers.

We also know that local, community-based and accessible services in the mould of the Youth Access YIACS model are key to meeting young people’s mental health needs, and have a lot of unmet potential to fill the gaps in mental health provision that leave so many young people without support. That’s why we work with our members – as well as partners such as the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition (CYPMH) and the Young People’s Health Partnership (YPHP) – to promote the YIACS model as a key component of local young people’s mental health and wellbeing services across the country, and produce research to build the evidence base for the effectiveness of YIACS mental health interventions.

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