As your leader (21 September) suggests, it is to be hoped that the new children’s commissioner for England, Dame Rachel de Souza, will be able to use her close links within the Conservative party to increase schools funding for mental health. However, her proposed “new deal” for education will only skim the surface if it fails to address the destructive impact of poverty and area deprivation – currently affecting 4.3 million children in the UK – on children’s mental and physical health, education and wellbeing, and its causal association with children coming into care. In poor neighbourhoods, teenagers are more likely to be involved in gangs, drug use and “county lines” trafficking.
Funding a new deal limited to schools would also fail to recognise the range of services that contribute to children and young people’s mental health and their need for catchup funding. From 2010 to 2019, cuts to local authority services amounted to £2.2bn, and 70% cuts in youth services. What is needed is a comprehensive new deal for all children and young people, to combat poverty and inequality, to provide needs-led funding of services, and a vision of prevention and working in partnership with children, young people and families to underpin these changes.
Prof Mike Stein
University of York