Conversations and post bag issues January and February 2018

Every month I hear from constituents about issues close to their hearts. Here I will try to summarise the issues that have generated a high volume of correspondence from constituents and my response so that you can keep up to date with my work in the constituency, as well as in Parliament. I hope you find this information helpful, and if you would like to get in touch about a particular matter, please send me an email.

The Bootle constituency community is committed, involved and passionate about issues that affect us in our “neck of the woods”, and more broadly, the country.

Children and Young Peoples Mental Health

Many residents contacted me about Child and Adolescent Mental Health.

Supporting young people's mental health is crucial, particularly through prevention and early intervention. On average, one in four people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their life and 50% of adult mental health illnesses develop before the age of 14. Around one in ten children today have a clinically diagnosable mental health problem.

In recent years, referrals to CAMHS have increased by two-thirds and the number of young people presenting to A&E units with psychiatric conditions has doubled. Yet, too many children and young people are still not getting the support they need. Two-thirds of young people referred to specialist mental health services by their GP receive no help and a third are not even assessed.

Despite the Government making repeated promises to give mental health the same priority as physical health, 40% of NHS trusts saw cuts to mental health budgets in 2015/16. There are 5,000 fewer mental health nurses than in 2010, and a review of the NHS Five Year Forward View has found that money intended for mental health has been used to plug funding gaps in the wider NHS.

The Government published its Green Paper on Transforming Children and Young People's Mental Health Provision in December. I share your concerns that the proposals leave many unanswered questions, including whether the reported funding will amount to new investment. Many of the measures are only pilots and the Government has confirmed that many new forms of support will not be available until 2022/23.

If the Government is to be taken seriously on children and young people's mental health, I believe it must increase spending on these services, ring-fence budgets and ensure children and young people have access to a counselling service in every secondary school - commitments outlined in the manifesto I stood on at the last General Election.

Dementia Care

This was another issue that many residents contacted me about and in particular concerns about the funding of services for people suffering with dementia.

Improving the quality of social care is a vital part of providing dignity in older age and support for people living with a long-term condition.

At a time when the social care system is coming under increasing pressure, I believe this Government is failing to take the immediate action required to find a long-term and sustainable solution to social care funding. I share the concerns that the Government is neglecting social care and that people with dementia will rightfully feel betrayed and abandoned as a result.

At the General Election, I stood on a manifesto that promised an extra £8 billion to tackle the funding gap in social care, including an additional £1 billion for the first year. This would have extended publicly funded social care to thousands of people in highest need.

With the Care Quality Commission describing the future quality of care as "precarious", the Government should consult with carers and experts on how it can move from the current broken system of care to a sustainable service for older people on the principle of shared risk, so that no-one faces catastrophic care costs as they do now.

Autism and Education

Following the recent report published by the National Autistic Society and the All Party Parliamentary Group many residents raised this issue with me.   The report found that 70% of parents of children with autism say that support was not put in place quickly enough for their child. Additionally, fewer than 5 in 10 teachers say that they are confident about supporting a child on the autism spectrum. The report recommended for the Government to develop a national autism and education strategy by the end of 2019.

I believe that teachers should be given the knowledge and skills they need to be able to identify and support children with autism through the training they receive. Indeed, at the General Election in June 2017, I stood on a manifesto which committed to deliver a strategy for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) based on inclusivity, and which pledged to embed SEND more substantially into training for teachers and non-teaching staff, so that staff, children and their parents are properly supported.

All children with autism deserve access to high quality, full-time education and I will continue to press the Government to do more to support families seeking to access appropriate education, and more generally on making the UK an autism-friendly nation.

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