Brexit distraction at Westminster leaves children facing ‘wretched’ futures, says children’s commissioner

The Canary

Political efforts to improve the chances of vulnerable young people are being hampered by paralysis in Westminster and years focusing on Brexit, according to the Children’s Commissioner for England.

“Westminster manoeuvring continues” and children’s prospects remain “wretched”

Theresa May has set out plans for new teachers to receive training on how to spot the signs of mental health problems in youngsters. The package pledges to ensure people have the skills they need to identify mental health issues before they become critical, particularly in young people. But not everyone is impressed.

Children’s commissioner Anne Longfield, for example, was scathing about the government’s failure to improve the “wretched” futures faced by vulnerable youngsters and dismissed the May’s announcement as a “twiddle to teacher training”.

She said she did not think teachers would have “that much trouble” spotting mental health conditions, but “they have trouble finding anyone to treat them”, arguing that specialist help should be available in every school.

Longfield stressed:

Now, on the day we hear that teenagers in Liverpool are being paid £1,000 to stab other kids, and the Government publicly recognises that one in ten kids with a social worker lurches in and out of the service for four to five years, the PM calls for a twiddle to teacher training?

It is three years since Brexit became the national political priority – three years in which half of the youngest children in need have grown up failing to meet their early development goals, a lifetime disadvantage.

While the Westminster manoeuvring continues, on and on interminably, Government itself has ground almost to a halt and the prospects for many of these kids remains wretched.

May announced the package as part of a series of policies she hopes will be the legacy of her time in office.

Mental health services at “breaking point”

Labour, meanwhile, claimed that mental health services are stretched “to their breaking point”, and sufferers are not receiving the aid they need.

“Training for teachers and other professionals is welcome but when we know thousands of children and young people are either turned away from mental health services or have to wait too long for treatment, it’s clear that she’s missing the real issue,” said Barbara Keeley, shadow minister for mental health and social care.

Almudena Lara, head of policy at NSPCC, said mental illness prevention services are “vital”, but that high-quality treatment must also be readily available for those who need it. Their research found some 150 children a day are rejected by Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), she added, with many spending months on waiting lists.

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