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Child mental health 'funding fail'

Published 30/06/2015

Less than a tenth of the mental health budget is spent on children, it has been claimed
Less than a tenth of the mental health budget is spent on children, it has been claimed

The Government has failed to properly fund mental health services for children in Northern Ireland, a charities report said.

More than a quarter of young people were concerned about their state of mind and inter-generational trauma has been caused by the conflict , research from Save the Children and the Children's Law Centre suggested.

The organisations submitted a report to the UN's Committee on the Rights of the Child which said less than a tenth of the mental health budget was spent on children. I t also highlighted the impact of poverty and treatment of young people in detention.

Peter Bryson, acting head of country for Save the Children in Northern Ireland, said: "The voices of children speaking through this report put an uncomfortable spotlight on how we view and treat our children and young people."

He said the charities consulted extensively across the community, voluntary sector and children.

"The community and voluntary sector has spoken clearly about the damage that funding cuts to public services are inflicting on the lives of children."

John Patrick Clayton, policy officer for the Children's Law Centre, said 27% of young people surveyed reported having experienced a mental health concern and added it was deeply concerning that only 37% had received help. A tenth of those aged 15 and 16 have self-harmed.

He said: "The UN Committee raised their concern about Government's failure to properly fund children's mental health services in Northern Ireland when they last examined Government in 2008. Despite this, the report highlights that only 7.8% of the total mental health expenditure in Northern Ireland is spent on children's mental health services."

He said detention of children was supposed to be used as a measure of last resort.

"It is therefore deeply concerning that, as we have highlighted in the report, the numbers of children admitted to custody for a night or two under PACE (police powers) has almost trebled since the UN Committee's last examination in 2008 and that a child's chances of being detained in the juvenile justice centre overnight increase significantly the closer you are to the centre and if you are looked after.

"It is a postcode lottery. It is deeply concerning that children who are looked after, and who are among our most vulnerable citizens and therefore those in most need of protection, are overrepresented in the criminal justice system and in custody."

Ramel Flores from youth@clc, who surveyed 750 young people about their enjoyment of their rights, said it was concerning that a significant number felt demonised by the police, adults in their communities and the media.

He added, "Many young people feel excluded from recreational facilities because of cost or age discrimination.

"When they were hanging out with their friends a staggering 61% of all the young people told us they were 'moved on' without any reason and that this made them feel disconnected from their communities. Despite this, the Government is excluding under 16s from its proposed age discrimination legislation."

A spokesperson for the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety said a nnual investment in child and adolescent mental health services was £19.4 million, compared to £9.5 million in 2006.

She said that represents approximately 8% of the total mental health expenditure of £247 million per annum.

More than £2 million has been used to establish primary mental health worker teams and crisis response home treatment services across Northern Ireland, so children and young people can be treated earlier and in their communities, and to reduce the need for hospital admission, the department added.

The spokesperson said: "This figure does not include investments made by the Public Health Agency in a wide range of young people's emotional health services, nor does it include expenditure on the wide range of children's services that contribute towards addressing the emotional health and well-being of children and young people such as family support services, safeguarding, and primary care services.

"Other government departments also invest in the improvement of emotional health and well being of children and young people."

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