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Our young people need urgent mental health support

Too many young people are facing a mental health crisis , Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness has warned as she calls on Government to urgently invest in young people and their futures

The mental health needs of children in the Northumberland, Tyne and Wear have been raised by PCC Kim McGuinness, as new research also shows children in deprived areas are struggling to cope.

A national survey of more than half a million children across England revealed this week found that one in five children are unhappy with their mental health.

The national report comes just days after the Police Commissioner’s local services report, which pulls together the views of almost 100 North East youth work organisations, revealed that 78% of organisations are dealing with more young people displaying mental health concerns now than in 2011, following a decade of cuts to youth services.

71% of the youth organisations surveyed have seen their funding cut or reduced since 2011. Overall there has been a 75% decrease in local authority spending on youth services in Northumbria since 2011. This means funding has been slashed by £31.5 million pounds.

These findings have prompted the Commissioner to call on the Government for an urgent rescue strategy, to save the youth sector and young people from losing their way and provide early mental health support for those who need it.

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness, said: “Poverty, deprivation, poor health, mental health and a lack of youth services– it’s all interlinked with crime and becoming vulnerable to it. Anyone who says these are excuses is wrong, these are often the root causes. You leave youth services to struggle; you leave young people to struggle. They go on to struggle as adults, as families, as entire communities. It’s that simple.

“And yet this Tory Government refuses to acknowledge its role in creating this crisis by defunding public services.

“South Tyneside and Sunderland, and Northumberland, Tyne and Wear are amongst the worst in the country for mental health treatment waiting times. This coupled with staff shortages means youth workers are telling us they are being forced to fill the gap in trained counsellors. It’s problem after problem.

“Youth services and mental health support need to kick in early – before kids reach the youth offending service and before they get a drug and alcohol misuse service referral. We need to prevent things getting so bad that a social worker has to step in and intervene with their lives.”

The Police Commissioner added: “All too often the police and their 24/7 availability are left to pick up the pieces at the end of that 999 call, coming to the aid in moments of real crisis but it’s like things are being allowed to get that bad. We have youth services bridging the gap too, some really amazing ones but it’s not – nor should it be – up to them or the police alone.”

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