At the end of October I took part in a debate in the House on the findings of the Youth Parliament Select Committee report on Young people's mental health.
I was delighted that the debate was held for two main reasons. First, this is an important subject. It is something that we are failing on, so it is right, proper and beneficial that we talk about it openly, especially because young people are much more prepared than ever to come forward with their own stories of their problems and issues, hopefully so that solutions can be found through them.
Secondly, it is part of the UK Youth Parliament’s work. It was significant that we gave up mainstream parliamentary time in the main Chamber of the House of Commons to discuss a report by the Youth Select Committee, an offshoot of the UK Youth Parliament.
I am a big supporter of the UK Youth Parliament. It was founded during my time in Parliament, and I always try to attend its annual parliamentary sittings, which are a great spectacle. It is always exceedingly frustrating for MPs when we return on the Monday and the Speaker inevitably says, “Why don’t you lot behave as well as the UK Youth Parliament members who were here on Friday; they are very smart, very concise, very well behaved, don’t heckle and set an example?” It is a shame that the media coverage of the Youth Parliament sitting is not more extensive because it is a great event for a great organisation, and it is great that we are discussing its work today.
Mental health remains the Cinderella service of the NHS. Indeed, the report describes child and adolescent mental health services—CAMHS—as the Cinderella service of a Cinderella service. The whole question of parity of esteem and funding is important. We can have arguments about how much the NHS budget has increased and kept up with inflation, but in every year in which the funding for mental health remains static or, worse still, declines as a portion of the overall NHS budget, we are sending out a clear message that it is a secondary priority within the NHS, and therein lies part of the problem.
You can read the full Hansard of the debate here: https://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2016-10-27a.459.0&s=speaker%3A10371#g473.0