Children’s mental health care a Cinderella service – former Havering leader

Cllr Steven Kelly

Cllr Steven Kelly - Credit: Archant

Children’s mental health is a “Cinderella service” that needs focusing on, according to the former council leader.

Cllr Steven Kelly said the stigma surrounding the issue needed to be addressed, and if it was, the borough would see a “major breakthrough”.

An estimated 9.1 per cent of children aged between five and 16 in Havering have a mental health disorder, which is lower than the 9.6pc national average.

But according to Cllr Kelly, more work needs to be done on the issue.

Speaking at Wednesday’s health and wellbeing board meeting, which he chairs, the Emerson Park councillor said: “We’ve been really successful in learning disabilities and we need to make it the same for mental health, rather than just say it’s badly funded.”

He called for a “softer touch” when encouraging parents to seek help if their child could potentially be affected.

“We need a halfway house to get people started, rather than to say ‘your child has mental health issues’,” he said.

Most Read

Isobel Cattermole, interim group director for children, adults and housing, added there was a reluctance from parents to access services early enough.

It was also revealed one child in the borough with “significant mental health problems” had not been checked from the age of two, when they were in nursery, until the age of five.

A universal service offers checks to all babies up to the age of two and a half, with one of the 27 health visitors checking the mother and her child.

But while 90pc of newborns had been visited, the number fell to 45pc at the six-to-eight week stage, due to a lack of funding.

Council chief executive Cheryl Coppell has now successfully asked for more money – but the council has no requirement to improve on its current performance and the money does not have to be spent on doing so.

Cllr Kelly argued it must be done properly.

“If we are content with only dealing with that proportion why are we doing any of it?” he said. “The 55pc we aren’t checking are probably the hard to reach ones that need more investigating. If we have only got 45pc we should really focus on the ones who need it.”

The check is separate from those conducted by GPs at the six-to-eight week stage.