Keep up the momentum


As we come to the end of our Changing Minds campaign, we are
delighted to say that we and our readers have done just that: we
changed minds. Our campaign petition, which collected more than
5,000 signatures, was presented this week to health minister Jacqui
Smith, who has welcomed the campaign for promoting debate on the
future of child and adolescent mental health services and promised
that the National Service Framework for Children will address many
of the points raised when it is published next year.

The government has shown that it is at last serious about improving
child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) by pledging an
extra £140m over the next three years and the indications are
that this will be ring-fenced in line with the aims of our
campaign. There is every sign that another of our campaign aims, a
national strategy, is also in the offing. When we launched our
campaign in August we published the results of a survey showing
that 80 per cent of professionals believed mental health services
for children and young people were in crisis, with nearly all of
them saying that resources were the problem. A newly published
review of social services inspections also highlights concerns
among social workers that CAMHS have been “unresponsive” in the

If things are beginning to change for the better it will only
happen with the sustained commitment of local agencies, including
social services, education and health. Initiatives aimed at
tackling social exclusion must make their contribution in terms of
preventive work, especially if the Department of Health wants CAMHS
to expand at the rate of 10 per cent a year. It is an ambitious
target, but it can be achieved if the professional will is

There is one more step the government should take. It has said that
it will listen to a range of concerns before it publishes a mental
health bill. It would be an enormous inspiration to CAMHS
practitioners if it were to contain a chapter, absent from this
year’s draft, placing costed and paid-for duties on agencies to
answer the needs of children and young people.

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