‘Low-level’ mental health services are preventative and early intervention services, such as support provided by school nurses or counsellors, drop-in centres or online counselling services.
The Children’s Commissioner’s report covers both local authority and NHS spending, and found local areas allocated a total of £226 million for low-level mental health services in 2018/19 – just over £14 per child.
There was also a wide variation in spending between areas, with the top 25 per cent spending at least £1.1 million or more, while the bottom 25 per cent spent £180,000 or less.
Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “Significant funding pressures mean many councils are being forced to cut some of the vital early intervention services that can support children with low-level mental health issues and avoid more serious problems in later life.
“Children’s services face a funding gap of £3.1 billion by 2025, while public health services have seen cuts of £700 million. If we are to improve provision of preventative and early intervention services then it is vital the Government adequately funds these in the forthcoming Spending Review.
“But we also need the NHS to work more effectively with councils. In addition, the Government promised £1.7 billion for children’s mental health, and it should make certain that all of this is received by children’s mental health services, and not diverted elsewhere. Where it has been spent on other services, government should make up the shortfall.”
Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, said: “The NHS Ten Year Plan has made children’s mental health a top priority, but it won’t succeed unless children with low-level mental health problems are offered help quickly and early. Local authorities are under huge financial pressure and many are doing a good job, but those that are spending barely anything on low-level mental health cannot continue to leave children to struggle alone.”