Children within Renfrewshire are at breaking point with the lack of support for their mental health, provided by Renfrewshire council. As if the current pandemic isn’t bad enough, Stephen McLellan, chief executive of RAMH has branded this mental health problem as “an epidemic”.
According to the Daily Record, many children, mostly those that are vulnerable have been begging the council for more mental health support. Around 4,500 referrals have been brought to the council over the last 6 years and it appears more will need to be voiced before the council take proper action.
As if matters couldn’t get worse for these struggling kids, in 2015 the average wait for a mental health assessment was 10 weeks, which has now doubled over the last 5 years. Helen Kyle, a resident of Paisley has said: “The waiting lists, especially for specific areas are awful…I do think that there needs to be much more out there for children with mental health issues, more support and access to social groups and support teams.”
In 2017, doctors across Renfrewshire made 706 referrals on behalf of their child patients and according to the Daily Record article “around a quarter of all referrals were made for children under 10”.
A spokesperson for the NHS, said: “This is due to a combination of issues which are currently being managed through a quality improvement programme across the board area…..a comparison of accepted referrals between 2013 and 2018 shows an increase of almost 40 per cent.”
COVID-19 has taken its toll on a lot of children and has had a significant impact on their mental health. According to an article, written for The Scotsman, a UK charity known as ‘Place2Be’ has played an important part in supporting children throughout Renfrewshire. The article said: “Mental health professionals have dedicated time to listening, watching and assessing the needs of children.”
Place2Be is a UK wide charity which supports children within schools and helps them deal with their mental health. It has proven to be a great success throughout Renfrewshire, but there is still no sign of the council providing a service or programme like this.
ChildLine published their own article on July 18, and it highlights that there has been an increase in children contacting them about their mental health by 20% during the lockdown. The article is aimed at those living within Renfrewshire and East Renfrewshire. It states: “Since the beginning of lockdown there have been more than 1,250 counselling sessions carried out with children….this is a monthly average of 419 sessions compared with 351 prior to the lockdown.”
It’s quite an alarming amount of sessions over such a short period of time and still, Renfrewshire council have remained silent. Esther Rantzen, Founder of ChildLine commented on these figures, and said: “The Coronavirus pandemic has turned children’s lives upside down….the virus has imprisoned them in homes which may not be safe, with emotional and physical abuse, violence or neglect.”
Due to the pandemic, ChildLine has seen a 30% decrease in volunteers and has had to close it’s night service, but is still offering its services for the children that need it most. However, this cannot be said for Renfrewshire Council as there have been no updates on its website about the mental health services they are offering children and young people since the beginning of this year.
Children across Renfrewshire are able to access mental health resources online, and over the phone. Whether that be through ChildLine or Place2Be. But it’s clear that Renfrewshire council are not doing their best to provide their own support for the children of its community. Some vulnerable children may not have the resources at home to take advantage of the online materials and this is where the council should be stepping in.