Covid in Wales: Children’s mental health ‘collateral damage’

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption A 2018 report said everyone working with children and…

Covid in Wales: Children’s mental health ‘collateral damage’

A boy with his face in his hands, wearing a maskImage copyright
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A 2018 report said everyone working with children and young people in Wales should be trained in mental health awareness

Children’s mental health has suffered the “collateral damage” of Covid-19, a Welsh Parliament committee has said.

The warning comes as two reports hear complaints that some young people struggle to get the help they need.

More than two years ago an inquiry called for the tackling of emotional and mental health issues in children to be made a national priority.

But a follow-up by the Senedd’s Children’s Committee says improvements to services are happening too slowly.

  • ‘More pupils need coronavirus mental health help’
  • New minister for mental health in cabinet shake-up

Meanwhile, a separate report by Wales’ Youth Parliament says the pandemic is having a big impact on children and young people.

The Welsh Government said it was responding to changing mental health needs due to the impact of the pandemic.

It comes as a Welsh Government shake-up saw Eluned Morgan put in charge of a range of health issues, including mental health, dementia and autism.

The Children’s Committee says:

  • Welsh Government reassurances about out-of-hours and crisis care are “disappointingly thin”
  • There are “too many reports of limited options” for children who need help but do not reach the threshold for specialist services
  • Although progress is happening in education, Senedd members were “far less confident that the pace of change in health and local government (including social services) is sufficient”

The report also raises concerns about prescribing for children and the way some young patients are admitted to inpatient units.

In its report, the Youth Parliament says children and parents were not aware of the help on offer to them.

It says “significant improvements” were needed to the information available to people.

It also says eliminating the stigma around mental health would mean more people get support before they reach crisis point.

Laura Anne Jones, who speaks for the Welsh Conservatives on issues affecting children and young people, said: “We must listen to our young people, because the effects of inaction and delay of any kind could have a long-term impact and continue to be felt long after the pandemic has passed.

“The new minister – announced yesterday – for mental health must explain as a priority what she will be doing to tackle this growing crisis.”

How have Welsh ministers responded?

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We welcome this report which notes the progress made since publication of Mind over Matter [the 2018 inquiry report], particularly in education.

“We share the committee’s continued commitment to ensuring children and young people receive access to emotional and well-being support and treatment in a timely and appropriate manner.

“We also recognise and continue to respond to changing mental health needs due to the impact of the pandemic.

“Our revised Together for Mental Health Delivery sets out our approach, including our additional £5m investment to support mental health and well-being and extension of school’s counselling services.”