Trouble in store;Opinion

5th February 1999 at 00:00
It has been said that you can tell a good society by how it treats its children. This week's news from the Mental Health Foundation suggests there is something very wrong with ours. The results of a three-year study (somewhat ironically entitled Bright Futures) show that one in five British children has a mental health problem. Abuse, family breakdown and poverty are contributory factors.

Troubled children grow up to be disturbed adults who cost society a great deal in expensive care and control - and in anguish. We have a fair amount of expertise in treating such difficulties in childhood - yet fewer than one in three young people with significant problems receives specialist help. Family doctors carry the main burden - as do teachers.

Yet schools are under more pressure than ever to produce easily-quantifiable results, and are judged on outcomes other than the quality of relationships they nurture. The much-needed pound;84 million announced by the Government is welcome; but some of it must be spent in enabling social services, medical expertise and education to pull together so that the desperate needs of these children can be met imaginatively.

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