Cornwall will get a child and adolescent mental health unit

NHS England has announced today that there will be a 12 bed child and adolescent mental health unit in Cornwall. This unit will be located in Bodmin and will be available for young people up to the age of 18.  This amazing news will mean that fewer children and young people will have to be placed on general wards, adult units or specialist units outside of Cornwall.

As a long time campaigner for such a unit in Cornwall, I very much welcome this announcement as the young people of Cornwall and their families deserve a unit such as this. I am very pleased NHS England have listened to our concerns and approved the funding for this unit. It has been a long time coming, but I am glad it has finally happened.

Cornwall’s HeadStart Kernow programme is set to receive £8.9 million to help with mental health and wellbeing for 10-16 year olds

Following on from the huge success of a Good Ofsted judgement, today, I can officially announce further fantastic news for Cornwall’s young people. This news is Cornwall has been awarded nearly £9 million (£8.9m) to continue its work in supporting the emotional wellbeing and mental health of children and young people over the next five years.thROYPQJ23

Cornwall is one of just six areas across the country to receive a Big Lottery Fund grant this year which will be used to support the delivery of the HeadStart Kernow Strategy from 2016 to 2021.

The aim of the national HeadStart programme is to equip young people to be able to cope better with difficult circumstances in their lives so as to prevent them experiencing common mental health problems before they become serious issues. Previous to today’s announcement, Cornwall Council was awarded £500k which was used to set-up the programme which importantly, have been developed in partnership with young people.

HeadStart Kernow is not just the Council, as this is a partnership which includes Devon and Cornwall Police, NHS Kernow, Cornwall Foundation Trust, Cornwall Association of Secondary Head Teachers CASH), Cornwall Association of Primary Head Teachers (CAPH) and the voluntary and community sector.

HeadStart Kernow focuses on four key areas:

  • A child’s time and experiences at school
  • Their ability to access the services they need
  • Their home life and relationships with family members
  • their interaction with family members

Over the past two years the programme has worked with 61 primary schools, 10 secondary schools and one special school across Cornwall, helping to support around 10,00 young people aged between 10 and 16 years.

20 July 2016, roll out beginning in September 2016. Activity will be phased, based upon need, assets and capacity and will be iterative in its nature – we will learn and adapt.

HeadStart Kernow young people's board and those involved with the programme

HeadStart Kernow young people’s board and those involved with the programme

With the £8.9m pot of funding, HeadStart will engage All Primary (235) and Secondary Schools (32), seven Alternative Provision Academies in Cornwall, and all of the five Special Schools by working in partnership to maximise the impact of the HeadStart funding along with voluntary sector providers and the wider community.

This is a fantastic achievement which will help us to continue to deliver pro-active and preventive emotional health support for young people across Cornwall.

This funding will be used to support a range of activities in schools and in local communities, help develop the workforce and improve support systems to ensure that all children and young people in Cornwall can access the right support when they need it.

I would like to thank the HeadStart team, let by Richard Head, and all those involved for their hard-work over the last two years and for convincing The Big Lottery HeadStart programme our project here in Cornwall will help young people deal with emotional and mental health issues. As the portfolio holder, I am very proud of all their work. This money will make a difference.


The CAMHS Service in Cornwall and why it must improve

CAMHS or to give its full title, Children and Adolescence Mental Health Service is an extremely valuable service. CAMHS exists to promote the mental health and emotional wellbeing of children and young people and the prevention and early intervention of mental health issues. There are four tiers to CAMHS and they are:

  • Tier 1: consists of school nurses, youth workers, teachers, GPs and health visitors
  • Tier 2: consists of specialised Primary Mental Health Workers (PMHW’s), educational psychologists, counsellors and social workers
  • Tier 3: consist of clinicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, mental health practitioners
  • Tier 4: consists usually of specialised inpatient units

However, since taking on the responsibility as Portfolio Holder for Children and Young People, I have been concerned with the provision of the CAMHS service. From evidence going back to 2008 there has been a lack of demonstrable improvement in the whole service. This has been backed up by inspections and two critical reports. I do acknowledge CAHMS is a complex area, with a greater demand on the service, and nationally there are similar issues like those faced in Cornwall, but for me more has to be done to improve this service. It was not only I who had concerns, as the feedback I was getting from many sources which included schools, young people, practitioners and clinicians raised similar concern too. So when this many people are telling me the service provision is patchy, not delivering and young people not getting assessed quickly, then I have to look into this to see if the concerns are true.

I was also frustrated with the lack of data and more concerning, a clear and up to date strategy to deal with the many issues surrounding CAMHS. You just cannot commission services properly without a clear strategy on how you are going to provide services, and you cannot have a strategy without good data.

So to address the issues I had, I asked the Council’s Health and Social Care Scrutiny Committee – who has statutory functions – to investigate my concerns. One of the powers the committee has is to convene a select committee. This is like those select committees in Parliament like the banking and the Murdoch hearing. This formate would then fully investigate the issues I had raised.

This select committee was established and a two-day hearing was held to gather views and information from service commissioners, schools, users, voluntary sector, officers of the Council and health agencies. The committee asked tough and searching questions to those who gave evidence, and I myself was grilled for over an hour on the provision by the Council.

The Scrutiny then collated all this evidence into a report. The full Scrutiny report can be found HERE.

This is an excellent report which gets to the bottom to the many of the issues in Cornwall’s CAMHS service. In many places of the report it is not an easy read, and many areas is critical. There is no point in asking for something to be investigated if you only want to put a sticky plaster over the cracks. To solve issues you need to fill in those cracks, and the only way to do this is to deliver a hard-hitting report highlighting those cracks.

However, it is easy to point finger of blame, but this solves nothing. And this is certainly what the report is about. This report is about solving these long running issues in the CAMHS service. From this report all agencies and organisations involved in CAMHS must acknowledge the report, but more importantly, start to address those action points contained within the report.

There is no point in looking back; we must look forward if we want to have the best CAHMS service. This looking forward approach has already begun as speaking to our other partners and organisations, there is a will to all work together and address the issue contained in the report. It is not going to be an easy task, but if the will is there, then we will succeed – together. Failure not to address the issues in the report is not an option, as failure will fail our young people who need this service.

I will finish by congratulating the Health and Social Care Committee and those members who formed the select committee. I will also give my thanks to all those who took part in the two-day hearing either in person and/or submitted evidence. I know it was a tough process.

Further information on the CAMHS can be found HERE and Cornwall Council’s Family Information Service HERE. There is also this excellent website from Invictus Trust which offers guidance and advice. This can be found HERE

Headstart programme to help address young people’s mental health issues

Back in November 2013, The Big Lottery Fund contacted Cornwall Council with an invitation to be part of the HeadStart programme. The funding is intended to help equip young people (aged 10 to 14) to deal better with difficult circumstances in their lives, so as to prevent them experiencing common mental health problems.

  • Cornwall is 1 of 12 geographical areas selected to deliver an initial project up to £500k (delivery between August 2014 to August 2015) with an additional £10k available to support the development of the project proposal.
  • Up to £10m will be available to develop the initial project into a full project, 5 to 6 areas from the initial 12 (competitive bidding process) will be selected to deliver their projects from August 2015 to August 2020.

The timescales for submitting  the stage one bid submission is tight (17th January 2014) and so Cornwall Children’s Trust Board agreed to Cornwall Council leading / coordinating the stage one partnership submission. The stage one submission has now been submitted.

Stage one sets out the partnership vision for HeadStart Kernow with the detail to be established as part of the next stage of the programme. We have drawn on the depth of experience across the partnership & the range of evidence available to us to develop the vision for the project. At the heart of the partnership & project is our commitment to placing young people at the centre & a determination to improving ways of working now & in the future.

It is the intention that the project will:

  • Consolidate, evaluate and improve the spectrum of existing provision. To ensure there are accessible, consistent & high quality interventions across Cornwall, that make the most effective use of intelligent targeting of resources and what already works.
  • Provide opportunities through the delivery of a range of interventions, addressing a spectrum of needs using evidenced based approaches that build resilience & prevent issues escalating. Listening & learning as we go, to what works, and what else is needed.
  • Prepare for the future, making sure we have the infrastructure, the skills and the learning in place to continue to design and deliver high quality proven interventions that will make the most impact.

 Through the project we want to see the following outcomes & benefits:

  • Prevent young people aged 10 – 14 developing diagnosable conditions by intervening early with evidenced based approaches, improving support & intervention in school, in the community & at home
  • Build the resilience of young people aged 10-14 by reducing risk factors, providing interventions at key turning points & targeting intelligently those most vulnerable
  • Improve & develop new pathways to preventative services by using tailored approaches, taking into account new technologies and making better connections
  • Ensuring the voices of young people are heard in service design & delivery, and that approaches are evaluated, shared and learning shared to maximise impact.   

This is a really exciting programme which will help address the many imbalances in children’s mental health services. The website:

Good news for Cornwall and Children’s Mental Health

I am very pleased to say Cornwall has been chosen as one of 12 partnerships across the country to develop a project that will help equip young people aged between 10 and 14 years to deal better with difficult circumstances in their lives to help prevent them experiencing common mental health.

Research carried out by the Big Lottery Fund using a panel of young people to help find out what projects they would like to see National Lottery good causes money spent on highlighted mental health issues as one of the key concerns of this age group.

The survey carried out by the panel revealed the top issues affecting young people are exams and tests (57 per cent) and family problems such as parents losing their job, splitting up or arguing (31 per cent).

A YouGov survey of over 700 children, also aged between 10-14, also discovered that:

  • More than one-in-five (21 per cent) have avoided socialising with friends because they were stressed or worried.
  • 75 per cent of children aged 10-14 think that a healthy mind is just as important as a healthy body.
  • A quarter are already worrying about choosing a future career.

The Big Lottery programme will enable Cornwall to bid for £500,000 to develop a partnership approach to improving the resilience and lives of young people by working in four key areas:

  • childs time and experiences at school
  • their ability to access the community services they need
  • their home life and relationship with family members
  • their interaction with digital technology.

This is fantastic news for Cornwall, as good mental health & emotional wellbeing is something Cornwall Children’s Trust Board has already recognised as a priority for improving outcomes for children & young people. This additional funding from the Big Lottery will enable us to develop preventative approaches that will build resilience in our young people. It will help them to build self-esteem, a positive self-image & develop the confidence to deal with knocks & set backs in life we sometimes take for granted.