The Local Government Association has said that early support hubs which allow young people to access mental health support without referrals should be made available nationwide.
The centres bring together various services to support young people’s mental health and emotional well-being before they hit crisis point. This includes youth services, sexual health, drug and alcohol, health and wellbeing practitioners, as well as mental health practitioners.
The hubs, which would be accessed without referrals from doctors or schools and offer support up to the age of 25, already exist in some areas. Some of the hubs are reporting social and economic benefit returns of more than triple the money they invested.
Now, council leaders are urging the Spending Review to provide long term investment so the hubs can be rolled out by councils and local health leaders nationwide. This would enable councils to have a key role in tackling rising mental health issues which they expect to trigger a significant rise in referrals for children’s support services, which could lead to increasing numbers of young people developing serious issues and a rise in clinical interventions.
The LGA says councils, which have a lead role in managing the hubs, should be seen as partners in tackling the mental health demand of the population and it should not be seen solely as an NHS issue.
As well as calling for long term funding to support a national roll-out of early support hubs, the LGA is also urging government to make its £500 million Youth Investment Fund – announced two years ago in September 2019 – available as soon as possible to help councils have enough funding to ensure youth services are available for local young people to help their mental health.
Antoinette Bramble, chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “Councils are concerned that mental health issues will continue to rise significantly, either this year, or in years to come, which could lead to increasing numbers of young people developing serious issues and a rise in clinical interventions.
“It is crucial that early intervention and prevention services are able to help children avoid reaching crisis point in the first place. Making early support hubs available for young people across the country to access mental health support without referrals will help reduce delays in receiving support which risks children and young people damaging their health and needing long-term support.
“Councils have a vital role in helping everyone with their mental health and wellbeing and have been working with partner organisations to run innovative schemes to help support children’s mental health and wellbeing during the pandemic. Councils need to continue to have a lead role in working to improve mental health for young people, which needs to be supported by long term funding.
“Early support hubs can crucially help mental health services for children meet existing, new and unmet demand that has built up during the pandemic, while helping to avoid a potential forbidding Covid-19 legacy of a new generation of young people with enduring mental health issues.”