As founder and manager at Our Place I have worked in the third sector for the last 4 years with a large part of my working week spent managing our mentoring scheme that delivers support to children and parents on social and emotion wellbeing.
In the three years previous I was employed by the local council and prior the that worked as a Youth Worker; again in the third sector, so overall I have been working within child/family focused services for 10 years.
In that decade I have seen huge reduction in services for children and families, something which is often linked to statutory service cuts forced by cost savings that are demanded by politicians. Along with this comes a decrease in funds available from grant giving bodies.
What has come of these service cuts and reductions is not simply a loss of services but a major stretch on those which remain.
In 2011 when the Our Place Mentoring Scheme launched, our support focused on issues such as family breakdown, friendships, self esteem and confidence. As our scheme has grown and developed some other local services have lost funding or closed completely and this has contributed to the changing nature of our mentoring work. Today we still support those original issues but we are now also supporting children of Primary School age on issues including self harm, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and low mood.
Two of the most crucial services we at Our Place work with are the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) and Birmingham Children's Services and it is here that I regularly hear 'I'm sorry he/she doesn't meet our criteria' I must point out that I'm not suggesting these services are ineffective but are overstretched and in crisis.
Just this week we have received another referral for a child with suicidal thoughts, whilst we put our support in place and begin the engagement process we attempted to access additional specialist support but the next available assessment date with CAMHS is 8 weeks away, for an 8 year old this timescale is difficult to comprehend.
In an attempt to keep this child safe in the coming weeks we contacted Children's Services to which we were informed 'this matter doesn't meet criteria, send him to the GP it's a health issue' we explained that there is an 8 week wait for the assessment and asked where we can signpost for support in that time to which we were advised 'take him to A&E'
We are also supporting a family where domestic violence is ongoing and the child has threatened suicidal acts on a number of occasions, in escalating this to Children's Services we were again told 'this doesn't meet criteria for a social worker' which leads me to question, what does?! This families GP has also made a CAMHS referral but made it clear to he parents that he was doubtful he will be seen.
In our post modern society where stress levels are high amongst children and adults alike we are seeing a huge rise in the number of individuals with mental ill health and whilst I believe that the campaigns and media are all working positively to reduce the stigma associated with mental health and encourage people to access support, the required level of support simply is not there.
Written by Kelly Round
The views in the post are my own and not necessarily those of Our Place
Member since: 11th May 2012
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