KEIGHLEY’S MP is backing calls for more Government cash to be given to Childline. John Grogan and 15 other MPs from the region have signed an open letter demanding that funding for the charity be increased. It follows revelations that Childline is being contacted by record numbers of young people struggling with suicidal thoughts. The charity currently receives £1.7 million annually from the Government as part of a four-year grant. But it is reliant on public support to maintain its services, with 80 per cent of funding being received through voluntary donations.
Latest figures show that in 2015-16, Childline hosted 19,481 counselling sessions about suicide – a massive 120 per cent up on 2010-11.
And in the 2015-16 period, the charity’s counsellors had to alert emergency services an average of six times a day about children talking of suicide.
The open letter, in support of an NSPCC Are You There? campaign, has been signed by a total of 130 MPs and peers.
They are calling for a slice of a £300 million pledge set out in a recently-published Government green paper, Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision, to be used to fund the service.
The letter has been sent to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Mr Grogan said: “As a country, we are much more aware than we were a generation ago about the mental health problems children face.
“There is nothing more tragic than a young person committing suicide when they have their whole life ahead of them.
“Sometimes having a sympathetic adult available at the moment of crisis just to listen and offer encouragement and perspective can make all the difference .”
The NSPCC says that since April, 2014, schools have made more than 35,000 referrals to NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in the north of England – but almost a third were deemed ineligible for treatment.
The charity warns that increased demand for support across specialist CAMHS, schools and the voluntary sector is placing the system under intense pressure, jeopardising the wellbeing of thousands of children.
Its letter to Mr Hunt says there is an urgent need for more volunteers and an expansion to – and improvement in – the training they receive.
It adds: “This will ensure that Childline is equipped to support the more complex mental health needs children are coming to the service with. It surely deserves Government support and investment.
“When a child is brave enough to reach out, it is absolutely vital that the immediate response and support is there for them.”
A Government spokesman said a total of £1.7 billion had been pledged to help promote, protect and improve children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing.
The green paper announced new mental health support teams to increase the help available to school pupils with emerging mental health problems.
The spokesman added: “Our plans will transform mental health services for children and young people, including the first-ever waiting time standards for those with the most serious problems.
“This will be supported by a new workforce and backed by £300 million of additional funding that will also provide significant additional support for all schools.”