Tackle mental health crisis by helping families, says Norman Lamb

PUBLISHED: 16:44 18 September 2018 | UPDATED: 16:44 18 September 2018

Norman Lamb wants more spending on young peoples' mental health
Photo: PA / Andrew Matthews

Norman Lamb wants more spending on young peoples' mental health Photo: PA / Andrew Matthews

PA Archive/PA Images

Former health minister Norman Lamb says the key to tackling mental health issues is helping struggling families as early as possible.

Speaking from Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton, the North Norfolk MP said trauma in early life can often spark mental health problems later.

He wants the government to spend more money to ensure families are given the support they need.

“Only 0.6% of the total NHS budget is spent on children and young people,” Mr Lamb said. “It is a tiny speck in the overall landscape. Given that 75% of adult mental ill health emerges by the age of 18 – and we know how effective early intervention – is it is a foolish mistake not to put a greater emphasis on this area.

“The first and most important thing is keeping families together. We need to help guide people in to being good parents. Many people need help, they struggle at first with what is ahead of them.

“We need to focus on prevention. Preventing trauma, abuse and neglect happening is the best thing of all. But if it has happened then providing immediate support for that child is vital.

“Many people working with children have not been trained to spot these issues. That is a critical part of identifying children and families who are most at risk. Then we can work with those families.

“Any intervention would be done in a thoughtful way. It must not be done in an aggressive way that says ‘we are going to take your child away’ – so often that results in defensiveness and a loss of trust.

“The preventive work is the key. There are some schemes already that do fabulous work but they are only scratching the surface.”

And Mr Lamb believes that focussing on those at risk in the early years will not just help reduce mental health issues but also stop young people turning to crime when they get older.

He added: “What we are seeing, because children services are under such pressure, is cut backs for those most in need. The knock-on of this is that young people are neglected and they end up getting excluded from school, and then they get recruited by drug gangs to act as mules.

“Sadly it is not just that these children are being exploited by gangs it is that they are being abandoned by the state as well – that is shameful.”

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