Impact of mental health takes its toll on Bedford families
More children and their parents were struggling, even before the full impact of the pandemic was being felt
Parental mental health is a factor in more than a quarter of cases when a Bedford child is referred to social services.
And The Children's Society and mental health charity YoungMinds are calling on the Government to ensure early support and advice is available for young people and their families.
When a child is referred for social care, social workers assess if the child is in need of their services, and record additional factors relevant to the case.
Department for Education data reveals that of 1,822 assessments carried out by social services in Bedford in 2019-20, 518 mentioned the mental health of a parent as a relevant factor for the child needing support.
It means that parental mental health was identified as a relevant factor in 28.4 per cent of cases – this was up from 17.2 per cent the previous year. In 8 per cent of assessments, the child's mental health was identified as a factor.
There were also 20 cases in which the mental health of a different member of the household was flagged.
The figures only include cases in which factors were recorded by social workers – nationally, this was true in 79 per cent of cases.
Richard Crellin, policy, research and public affairs team leader at The Children’s Society, said: “It is worrying to see more children and their parents were struggling with mental ill health, even before the full impact of the pandemic was being felt.
"Introducing regular national measurement of children’s well-being, allied with an early-intervention strategy, can lay the foundations for a brighter future for children.
“Councils can play a vital role by working with local partners to coordinate well-being strategies backed by dedicated government early intervention grants."
He added these could include investment in drop-in community hubs as well as youth services.
Tom Madders, director of campaigns at YoungMinds, said the figures across England were concerning.
He added: "It is important that services understand how traumatic experiences can affect a child’s behaviour and mental health, and how they can support resilience and recovery.
“We also know from young people we work with that early support for mental health problems can make a huge difference, so it is vital they can access help when they need it to prevent problems from escalating and from reaching crisis point."
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: "Through the NHS Long Term Plan we are expanding mental health services to support an additional 345,000 children and young people by 2023-24.
“NHS mental health services have remained open throughout the pandemic, including 24/7 crisis lines in all NHS trusts in England and in September we launched a new Every Mind Matters campaign with tips and advice to promote children and young people’s mental wellbeing, and equip parents and carers with the tools to support them during challenging periods."