Cuts mean mental health service for children is now ‘barely effective’, says Shropshire councillor
A councillor has spoken out after Shropshire Council said that the number of children getting help from Sure Start centres in the unitary area has fallen by two-thirds.
Tracey Huffer, who represents Ludlow East said that after the authority cut the budget by more than 40 per cent and concentrated activity in the market towns, the number of children with mental health disorders seen by social workers has grown by more than half in three years.
Councillor Huffer, who is also a practising nurse, said: “Anyone working with young people knows the reality is that mental health needs of young people are often being ignored. In rural areas, there is almost no mental health provision for young people.
“Ministers have promised more investment in mental health services for young people in recent years. We haven’t seen any evidence of that in rural areas like South Shropshire.
“Sure Start has always been one of the most useful early years intervention schemes we’ve had. But the government and councils have cut it back so far, it is now barely effective. In January, the National Audit Office warned that the cuts were harming children. But ministers and councils seem to be oblivious to the growing crisis.
“Ludlow, like everywhere, has seen cuts to support for children’s mental health services. It is very hard for many young people to get access to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).
“In Ludlow, we decided to tackle this head on. Last year, we commissioned the Children’s Society to run wellbeing sessions for young people under their BEAM service. This project has shown that the local demand for help is high. Many youngsters have been referred on to medical services.
“Ludlow Young Health as our local scheme is known, is now funded entirely by local grants and fundraising. It is very successful but it will be a struggle to keep it going.
"Shropshire Council is not prepared to help. We must raise nearly £2,000 a year to pay the council to rent space in Ludlow Youth Centre for the BEAM sessions.
"This is a disgusting tax on mental health services and shows how little the council cares about helping young people.”
Shropshire Council was approached for comment.