Home-Start Hertfordshire chief raises funding concerns as report reveals children with mental health problems face 10-year waiting list for help

Lara Norris is the new CEO of Home-Start Hertfordshire and is steering the charity through a difficu

Lara Norris is the new CEO of Home-Start Hertfordshire and is steering the charity through a difficult financial period. - Credit: Archant

Children with mental health problems are having to wait an average of 10 years for help, with cuts to support services making the future look even bleaker.

Herts County Council stopped funding family support charity Home-Start for its home visiting service from September – the type of service vital to support children with illnesses such as depression and anxiety and their families, according to a report released by the National Centre for Mental Health.

Missed Opportunities is a review of recent evidence into children and young people’s mental health and paints a dire picture. It says one in 10 children and one in five young adults are thought to be affected by mental health issues, but that there is an average 10-year wait to get help.

The report goes on to highlight the importance of early intervention and places a high importance on parenting support through groups and home visiting.

It says: “Opportunities to offer timely and effective support to children and their families are being missed. Typically, in the 10 years many children wait to get help with mental health difficulties, problems become entrenched and, for many, escalate until they reach a crisis.

“The longer a child is left without help for a mental health problem, the more it is likely to cast a shadow over their entire life.”

Lara Norris, chief executive of Home-Start Hertfordshire, which has its head office in Stevenage, said: “Sadly, Hertfordshire has been identified as an area where perinatal support is very basic and falls short of national standards.

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“We know that for every £1 spent on perinatal support we can save £28. Cuts have been made to all services that work with families, including Home-Start.

“This is the exact opposite of what the report, and all of the evidence, tells us about preventing long-term harm, and makes no economic sense.”

Richard Roberts, HCC’s Cabinet member for children’s cervices, said: “We’ve received national funding for our revolutionary family safeguarding teams to carry on working seamlessly (£4.8m) to protect children from domestic abuse and their parents’ mental ill health and, with our NHS partners, we’ve received £2m funding to improve our Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

“Hertfordshire’s 82 children’s centres provide early help to all families.

“The council is also working to increase support for parents-to-be and new parents showing signs of problems like depression or anxiety.”