North Yorkshire Council calls for more mental health help

Stuart Carlton said increasing the amount of help for children with mental health issues ranked alongside child exploitation and online safety as the most significant challenges his colleagues were facing.

He was speaking at a meeting of the authority’s children and young people’s scrutiny committee a year after the NHS announced it was rapidly expanding children’s mental health services to offer support teams in schools to almost three million pupils by 2023.

At the time, the NHS said by intervening in mental health issues early it was hoped to prevent problems escalating into serious concerns.

Earlier this year the committee heard mental health services for children in the county and elsewhere were struggling to cope with an “exponential growth in demand” due to the isolation and upheaval of the pandemic, compounded by factors like pressure experienced by children on social media platforms.

In February, Tees Esk and Wear Valley NHS Trust bosses told the scrutiny meeting its community-based mental health team (CAMHS) was treating more than 2,500 children across the county.

They said referrals to its services for issues such as eating disorders had risen from about 100 a month at start of pandemic to more than 300 a month during 2021.

Four months on, a youth support worker told the committee the waiting list for CAMHS had risen to 18-months, which was not a sufficiently timely reaction to what children needed.

Mr Carlton said the authority was providing support to schools through mental heath training while working with North Yorkshire NHS bosses to reassess what was needed from the service and how it could be modernised.

He said there had been promising collaborative work with the NHS, but financing extra support for children would be “very challenging”.

Mr Carlton said: “We can see through the pandemic increased demand.

“The services are probably feeling a bit overwhelmed and overstretched and it’s an area of absolute focus.

“Any interaction with a child from a professional is a mental health opportunity. However, we need enough capacity for specialist support when it is required.”