“In 2017, focus mental health support on where it can meet our biggest social challenges”

Response of Pam McConnell CEO of Five Rivers to Theresa May’s speech at the Charity Commission’s Annual meeting, The Royal Society, January 9th 2017

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At Five Rivers, we help abused, neglected and traumatised children – our staff and carers are trained to rebuild their mental health through evidenced-based therapies and interventions.

At her recent speech to the Charity Commission we were delighted to hear the commitment of the Prime Minister to “Make mental illness an everyday concern for all of us and in every one of our institutions” her focus on child mental health.

We may be concerned about statistics that show 1 in 4 are mentally ill, yet further damage to the mental health of those identified as the most vulnerable in our society – children in local authority care – is entirely avoidable: these children have suffered most through abuse and neglect, their severe and complex needs are well-researched and psychological and therapeutic interventions are having great outcomes for them. It would have been good to hear more about the impact of this kind of work.

Those in the social care arena can see the catastrophic impact of this lack of awareness: many looked-after children fall at the first hurdle to help by being mislabelled as “already receiving treatment” due to their care status or, finding it difficult to attend GP appointments, end up being penalised and much-needed support denied to them.

In 2017 we want to see a focus on mental health where it can meet our biggest social challenges: we hope the government listens to experts in the field such as the children’s commissioner Anne Longfield, Sir Martin Narey in his 2016 Residential Care Review and Jon Rouse director general with responsibility for Mental Health.

In 2016 they underlined the following:

  • Residential care offers proven effective help for children in crisis (see https://www.five-rivers.org/pamela-mcconnell-ceo-five-rivers-responds-independent-review-childrens-residential-care/)
  • Routine mental health support for fostered and adopted children has proved its worth among social services who have committed to it.
  • More damage is done by leaving children in managed neglect: the long term cost of repair to a ruined adult life is much greater, economically and socially, than the cost of early intervention for those who are youngest, most impressionable and defenceless: investment in the market for children’s service provision is needed.social-enterprise

The government would also do well to listen to social enterprises in children’s services like Five Rivers that can devise integrated support schemes that can prevent family breakdown through mental illness – as well as treat it. We are concerned with the whole lifecycle of the child in care from birth to 18 and beyond and our primary mission as a social enterprise is to build community, not profit from its failure. We are pleased that the Prime Minister recognised our contribution in her speech.

“We will continue to lead the way internationally in the development of social finance to harness the full potential of our charities and social enterprises in working with business and government to tackle some of the biggest social challenges in our country.”

Read the full text of the Prime minister’s speech:” The burning injustice of mental illness”:
https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/the-shared-society-prime-ministers-speech-at-the-charity-commission-annual-meeting

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