MENTAL health services for children and adolescents are to receive a cash boost of pound;84 million over the next three years. The money will go towards improving liaison between primary care, specialist child and adolescent psychiatric services, social services and other agencies as well as local services.
Health minister John Hutton made the announcement at a conference for child psychiatrists and others working in the field as part of the Government's wider social inclusion policy.
He decried the "unnecessary barriers that have grown up between health and social services. Crime, illness, social disadvantage and educational failure are not areas of discrete concern. They are all inter-related."
He also voiced concern at the findings of the Audit Commission's review of child and adolescent mental health services, which show a wide disparity in budgets and services offered around the country, a patchy picture of inter-agency work and little information available at local level. Half the health authorities do not have a written policy.
Professionals working on the ground also called for a more concerted and considered approach.
Epidemiologist Dr Sarah Stewart-Brown, from the Department of Public Health, argued for parent education classes across the social spectrum. She pointed out the fallacy of stereotyping children at risk of mental health problems in terms of social class.
While conduct disorders and hyperactivity were far more prevalent in social class 5 than in social class 1, the bulk of children with behaviour problems were found in social class 3. "So if you target the lowest social-class group, you're missing most of the problem," she said.
A multi-agency committee chaired by Tessa Baring will be making recommendations to the Government in the spring.