Ask the Experts: Accessing mental health funding

Jeanie Lynch, Tracie Trimmer-Platman, Peter Lewis and June O'Sullivan
Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Our panel offers advice on mental health services funding, inappropriate sexual behaviour, safeguarding and a nursery compost heap.

Make a “menu” of the type of mental health services needed by young people in your area. Picture: Alex Deverill
Make a “menu” of the type of mental health services needed by young people in your area. Picture: Alex Deverill

I approached our clinical commissioning group (CCG) to discuss use of new funding for child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), but they didn't prove to be particularly helpful. What should I do?

Peter Lewis: Few working in local authorities have not been concerned at the lack of appropriate support from CAMHS. But this new money could be a real opportunity to make improvements.

You need a "menu" of issues to be resolved and the type of services needed. Work with your top team and school representatives to work up that list and consult young people on their expectations.

Your list will reflect your particular circumstances locally. Check with third-sector partners on their evidence and the services they provide.

Once you have a menu then keep pressing the CCG on those priorities and how resources will be used. One danger is the new money will be swallowed up by current overspends and the need to make savings. Your local health and wellbeing board would be a good place for discussion not least because it will pull in NHS England representatives to provide some support.

Peter Lewis is a freelance providing interim local authority children's services leadership, and a former DCS in Haringey

I work in a support unit for young people excluded from education. One of the boys in my class started masturbating during a lesson. I was shocked and didn't know what to do. Any advice?

Tracie Trimmer-Platman: Report the incident to your manager, who is responsible for ensuring you have the right support and strategies to deal with this both as an individual and a professional.

Many of the young people you work with will have emotional and behavioural issues. This young man may well have a history of inappropriate sexual behaviour. Is he getting therapy, counselling or other support to deal with this and any other problems? You must also consider the needs of classmates who witnessed the incident and may have been affected.

You need to work with your manager to establish the best way of working effectively with this young man and ensure he is getting the right support. Hopefully this will give you more confidence in dealing with such difficult situations in future.

Tracie Trimmer-Platman is senior lecturer in youth and community work at the University of East London

I'm working with a 14-year-old boy who has started going missing on a regular basis. His mum sometimes lets the police know, but not always. He has stolen money from her, been drinking and says life is not worth living. How do I support this family?

Jeanie Lynch: The key questions are: why is he going missing, for how long and where to? Are there problems at home you are unaware of?

You need to impress upon mum the need to report him missing for every episode he is unaccounted for. This will trigger a return home interview, and may provide wider information about where he is spending his time and who he is with.

He may be being coerced into gang activity and feel threatened and unable to talk about it. His comments suggest he is in trauma. Talk to him, let him know you are worried and develop a multi-agency approach to reduce the risks.

Jeanie Lynch works for Barnardo's and has 25 years' experience of working with vulnerable children and families

We want to build a compost heap at our nursery. Any tips on how to do it?

June O'Sullivan: This is a great learning opportunity for the children. The easiest thing to do is to buy a compost bin from your local garden centre or online. Any one will do as long as it excludes rain, retains some warmth, allows drainage and lets in air. Place the bin in a shady area where it's not exposed to extreme temperatures, ideally on a patch of bare earth. If you can't site it on bare earth put a layer of soil at the bottom.

Get the right balance by aiming for 25 to 50 per cent soft green materials such as grass clippings, weeds and vegetable waste. The remainder should be woody materials such as wood chippings, prunings, cardboard, straw and paper. Fallen leaves take a long time to break down. Ideally, they should be allowed to rot separately in plastic bags for at least two years.

Turn the heap every month or so to avoid it becoming wet, slimy and smelly. Compost can take six months to two years to mature. Mature compost is dark brown, with a crumbly soil-like texture and a smell resembling damp woodland. Involve children every step of the way from feeding the bin to using the compost.

June O'Sullivan is chief executive of the childcare charity and social enterprise, the London Early Years Foundation

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