Council told to boost mental health services for young people in Redbridge

More needs to be done to help young people struggling with mental health issues, Redbridge councillors say.

Almost a fifth of people aged between eleven and 17 in north, central, and east London have a diagnosable mental health condition – a 23% increase from 2019, as per the latest NHS data.

Youths make up more than a quarter of Redbridge’s population, totalling around 75,000, and that figure is expected to grow by 5% over the next six years.

Levels of “high deprivation” and “preexisting equalities” have exacerbated mental health issues in the borough, according to the council’s children and young people policy development committee.

The reasons are manifold: social isolation during the Covid-19 lockdowns in 2020/21, perceived difficulties in reaching out to trusted adults, and the responsibilities put on young carers all take a toll, the council found.

The committee also heard from a group of people aged between eleven and 25 about their reluctance to access mental health services.

They expressed anxiety over social media ‘pressures,’ while others pointed to a fear of being outed and bullied at school.

Councillors also heard from the Integrated Care Board (ICB) that the borough’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) is the smallest in northeast London.

That means there is a ‘high number’ of children and young people waiting for help after being referred to the service.

According to C&YP Mental Health Coalition, it is estimated that, in 75% of cases nationally, young people facing mental health problems are forced to wait for so long that their conditions worsen.

In response, councillors on the children and young persons policy development committee proposed an ‘early support hub’ for under-25s to access advice on mental and sexual health, employment, and housing.

Schools should also ensure the confidentiality of pupils in order to improve trust, while also reconsidering their messaging, with some pupils describing it as “boring and ineffective”. The committee said organisations should consider adopting a “child-friendly, interactive, creative, and welcoming approach”.

They also called on the council to lobby the central government – which invested £2.3billion into national services earlier this month – for more funding for Redbridge’s CAMHS.

Representatives from both the ICB and CAMHS will need to issue an update on the prospect of remodelling the service in the borough.

The policy report, produced over the past twelve months, will go before a scrutiny committee later this year.

At the group’s final meeting, committee chairwoman Saima Ahmed said: “It is such a vast topic and such an important one.

“There is so much more to do and we have barely scratched the surface. But we have [given it] a good scratching.”

She added that the policy report should be treated as a “working document” that can be updated and retooled as time goes on.

After being scrutinised, it will either be approved or rejected by the cabinet.

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Sebastian Mann

Local democracy reporter