A draft strategy aimed at ensuring children and young people across Warwickshire have access to specialist mental health support has been endorsed by county councillors.
At their meeting this week (September 21), members of the council’s health and wellbeing board backed the plans but also questioned how they would actually make a difference with many issues pre-dating Covid.
Rachel Jackson, Warwickshire County Council’s lead commissioner for vulnerable people, told the meeting: “Over the past 18 months it has been clear that we have all been through some interesting and challenging times but throughout that there have been some significant highlights.
“In terms of early help and prevention we’ve seen, over the past 18 months, the expansion of the mental health in schools team across Coventry and Warwickshire. In south Warwickshire there are 49 schools who have become part of that and we have also been successful with an expression of interest to expand into the north of the county.
“Funding has been secured to expand the eating disorder team and extend the offer up to the age of 19.”
But she also outlined some of the problems, adding: “Children are in crisis, there has been huge system capacity demand and children and young people are presenting with a greater complexity of needs that has put pressure on service delivery.
“We need to continue improvements around access and the effectiveness of our delivery. The focus is on early intervention and prevention, we know that we can’t take our eye off that.”
Cllr Jerry Roodhouse (Lib Dem, Eastlands) admitted he was frustrated by the process with councillors being the last to see the plan.
He said: “It has gone to NHS England and we are just asked to rubber stamp it really which I just find unacceptable as a locally elected member. I find it a bit galling to be honest.
Cllr Margaret Bell (Con, Hartshill and Mancetter), who chaired the meeting, added: “We have a lot of people with experience, views and opinions and it would be really good to use them more than we tend to.”
And she added: “Before the pandemic there were problems, the pandemic has only exacerbated those problems. What is going to bring about change - why is it going to be different because of this plan?
"I don’t actually understand what’s going to change to make things better.
Ms Jackson said that while the issues were nothing new, the plan gave a snapshot of the current situation.
She added: “Ultimately it boils down to finances, it boils down to workforce pressures. You can have posts but if people aren’t trained to be in those posts then they will be vacant.
“It is about how we can influence NHS England on how the allocation of their resources - about how we meet the needs of children and young people.
“In terms of what’s going to be different it is all of those things and strong leadership.”