Government announces earlier mental health support for young people

The government is to provide additional funding to 10 existing mental health hubs that offer support to children and young people

30th October 2023 about a 4 minute read
“No child or young person experiencing trauma should reach crisis point, and nobody should endure the enormous tragedy of losing a loved one to mental illness. We have to make sure the support is there as early as possible." Dr Alex George, government youth mental health ambassador

The government is to provide £5m funding to offer early mental health support to young people at 10 hubs in community locations.

Young people wanting to access mental health support will not need a referral by a doctor or school, or even an appointment – they will simply be able to walk in.

Approximately 60 early support hubs already exist in England, and are run by a variety of local services including volunteer organisations, local NHS trusts and local authorities. The services on offer at the hubs include group work, counselling, psychological therapies, specialist advice and signposting to information and other services.

The hubs are open to those aged 11 to 25 years old, and are available to children and young people who may not meet the threshold to receive NHS support. Any young person who is experiencing worry, anxiety or stress has a physical space to go to when their problems first emerge.

Early support hubs also offer advice on wider issues affecting a young person’s mental health, including sexual health, exam worries, jobs, drugs, alcohol and financial worries.

The £4.92 million will fund a pilot scheme in which 10 of these hubs will be able to expand their current services locally and employ new staff such as counsellors or youth workers. The impact of the funding will be evaluated by government.

The 10 hubs benefiting from the funding have not yet been announced.

Access to early support has long-term benefits

The government’s youth mental health ambassador, Dr Alex George, said that the announcement of additional funding was “a milestone to be celebrated.” He added: “No child or young person experiencing trauma should reach crisis point, and nobody should endure the enormous tragedy of losing a loved one to mental illness. We have to make sure the support is there as early as possible.

“That is why I will keep working with the government to ensure every child and young adult knows they have somewhere to go when they feel lost, overwhelmed or down.”

Approximately half of mental health conditions are established by the time a child reaches the age of 14, and 75% by the age of 24. The government said that access to early support could prevent children from developing mental health conditions that can have devastating long-term impacts – a point also made in a Royal College of Psychiatrists report last week. The Local Government Association says that some of the existing hubs are “reporting social and economic benefit returns of more than triple the money they invested.”

Maria Caulfield, the mental health minister, said: “To parents across the nation – I want to assure you we’re working to get your children that vital early support. Our funding will help hubs to hire counsellors, youth workers and other local experts. It comes on top of an extra £2.3 billion a year to transform NHS mental health services and help millions of people.” The funding could “help avoid tragic waits and save lives,” she added.

A campaign group called Fund the Hubs, which is made up of a number of mental health charities and professional bodies, welcomed the announcement. It said: “With now over a million referrals to children and young people’s mental health services every year, we know that services are struggling to keep up with demand. Early intervention services are desperately needed across the country and will make a huge difference to many young people who are struggling with their mental health.

“Tens of thousands of young people have fought hard to fund the hubs. These spaces will mean that young people can get support for their mental health as soon as they need it, rather than waiting months and sometimes years for help. In the context young people are navigating, this additional funding for services is worth celebrating. We welcome this step in the right direction and hope that more hubs will be funded in the future, so every young person in every community can access the support they provide.”

FCC Insight

Rates of mental health problems among young people have soared in the past five years, with research suggesting that one in 10 children between the ages of 5 and 16 have a clinically diagnosable mental health condition. The network of 60 hubs dotted around England offer early intervention services so that children and young people can receive support before their problems reach crisis point. Children can drop in without a referral, removing one of the barriers to access. We regard the announcement of an additional £5m to enable 10 of the hubs to expand their services as an important start, although, given the scale of the demand, it is a relatively small sum. We hope that, if the evaluation of the hubs shows that they are having a positive impact, the government will increase the funding and expand the offer more widely.