Leader of Home-Start Hertfordshire calls for support in preventing severe mental health problems in children

Chief executive of Home-Start Hertfordshire Lara Norris is calling for more emphasis to be placed on

Chief executive of Home-Start Hertfordshire Lara Norris is calling for more emphasis to be placed on the first 1001 days of life when it comes to mental health support. Picture: courtesy of Lara Norris. - Credit: Archant

We have the opportunity now to prevent children and young people experiencing poor mental health and self-harming in the future, says the chief executive of a family support charity who is asking for readers’ support in changing Government policy.

The Government is currently asking people for their views on a green paper - Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision.

It proposes creating new community-based mental health support teams, encouraging every school and college to appoint a designated lead for mental health, and piloting a four-week waiting time for NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services in some areas.

Lara Norris, chief executive of Stevenage-based Home-Start Hertfordshire, says she welcomes the paper but the proposals do not go far enough.

She says the paper should consider the existing body of research into the importance of the first 1001 days of a child’s life - from conception to two years - as a basis to commit to the prevention of mental illness, and that CAMHS funding for this age group should be ring-fenced.

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She is also calling for the paper to include a greater recognition of the critical role of adverse childhood experiences in the development of mental illness and a strategy for, and investment in, early intervention.

Lara said: “Unfortunately the paper does not currently recognise the vital importance of the early years and instead focusses on interventions starting at school age and beyond.

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“We know, and every bit of evidence backs up our claims, that early intervention – support within the first 1001 days of life – makes the greatest impact on the life chances of a child. It is why I fight so hard for Home-Start and the work our volunteers do.

“This is about prevention, rather than cure. We don’t want to wait until children are 14 and have severe mental health problems, are self-harming and in a destructive cycle. Currently, we are dealing with the problem long after it has occurred.

“We know those first 1001 days set the foundations for the whole of a person’s life. We need our policies and politics to reflect that. This is our chance to make a difference. Please add your voice to mine.”

To have your say, visit www.engage.dh.gov.uk/youngmentalhealth before March 2.

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