The Government should offer subsidised loans to cash-strapped councils to encourage them to award longer contracts to organisations that support children with mental health difficulties, a think-tank has urged.
A report published today by ResPublica said financial uncertainty had forced more local authorities to award shorter contracts to providers, including charities.
It argued that these shorter contract cycles made it ‘harder for an early intervention approach to be embedded’ and called on the Government to offer bespoke, subsidised loans to councils that award longer contracts.
The report read: ‘In the face of deep concerns about the long-term viability of local government funding, government must in partnership with local government explore what new sources of revenue can be made available to local authorities to provide them with long-term financial security.’
Report author Duncan Sim said: ‘We are calling on the Government to prioritise measures which can prevent mental health difficulties presenting or escalating among children in the first place, such as an expansion of in-school counselling, as well as putting in place the long-term funding arrangements which give local authorities the confidence and freedom to invest in high-quality and accessible support services.’
The study urged the Government to introduce a duty on local authorities to ‘promote collaborative working between all relevant stakeholders in designing and delivering support services for young people’.
It also called for councils to ‘take steps to involve young people in the service design process’ and recommended that the Government offered ‘devolution settlements similar to that seen in Greater Manchester to other regions’.
Shadow minister for youth affairs, Cat Smith, said: ‘The report raises serious concerns about the long-term viability of local government funding for children and youth services.
‘It is vital that this government does not lower its domestic policy ambitions in light of the complexities presented by Brexit.’
Amid estimates that three out of four adult mental health problems begin before the age of 18, the Government is expected to publish a green paper on children’s mental health later this year.