The Government has announced £5m of funding to expand open-access mental health hubs for young people in 10 areas in England.
Early mental health support service for children and young people offered by the hubs will include group work, counselling, psychological therapies, specialist advice and signposting.
The hubs operate a ‘drop-in’ system for 11-25 year olds with no referral or appointment necessary. The plans are to expand some existing services but the areas that will receive funding are yet to be announced.
Children and young people who can get help through the hubs may not meet the threshold for NHS support but early intervention is key, the Government said.
A network of around early 60 support services is already in place around the country run by run by volunteer organisations, local NHS Trusts, and local authorities.
The additional funding will help with hiring of new staff and expansion of provision, ministers said.
An evaluation will be done in the 10 pilot areas to assess how funding has benefited local children and young people in order to guide future provision of early mental health support.
Latest figures show last year more than 1.2 million under-18s were referred to child and adolescent mental health services – an increase of 53% since 2019.
It followed research showing the number of teenage girls seeking help from their GP for an eating disorder has soared since the pandemic.
That analysis of GP data by researchers at Keele University also found higher levels than expected of self-harm among 13-16-year-old girls since 2020.
Around 50% of mental health conditions are established by the time a child reaches the age of 14, and 75% by the age of 24, highlighting the important of early intervention, mental health minister Maria Caulfield said:
‘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 government’s youth mental health ambassador Dr Alex George said the expansion of the early support hubs was to be celebrated.
‘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.’
A ‘Fund the Hubs campaign’ group made up of several charities and organisations including The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, Centre for Mental Health, and Mind said the additional funding was a recognition of the vital role of these community services.
‘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.’