By Emma Pears, founder and CEO of SELFA Children’s Charity based in the Craven district.
By now many of us are very familiar with Core20PLUS5 – a national NHS England and NHS Improvement approach launched in 2021 to support the reduction of health inequalities at both national and system level. The approach defines a target population cohort – the ‘Core20PLUS’ – and identifies ‘5’ focus clinical areas requiring accelerated improvement.
In late 2022 NHS England released a new version of their ‘Core20PLUS5’ approach for reducing health inequalities. However this time, it was focused on children and young people, coming as a direct result of feedback that the original approach and clinical topics were not relevant or applicable for young people.
We know how important it is to tackle inequalities within childhood and adolescence to prevent poor health in later in life, so I was delighted to see a national framework for reducing health inequalities that specifically considers the needs of children and young people.
Too often this age group is not a focus of policy and intervention, particularly in Craven where Adults (18+) account for 83% of our population, with 27% of these being over the age of 65.
So, what actions can be taken locally to reduce young people’s health inequalities?
For people like me working in communities, it’s important to look at what more can be done and what resources are available to enable us to take action that makes a difference in the lives of these children and young people.
With mental health being one of the five key clinical areas of the “Plus 5” for children and young people, we saw a need to focus on improving access rates to mental health services.
The recent scrapping of the cross-government 10-year mental health plan has been a huge setback for the future provision of children’s mental health services and the government has no clear plan of how to rescue the system, so I want to tell you how our team at SELFA Children’s Charity are working with partners across Bradford and Craven to support children’s mental health in Craven.
At SELFA children and young people can now access support the same week that they contact us, sometimes that can be the same day if all the planets align! We can see them in school or at one of our community settings. We can see them after school, on an evening or weekend.
We then provide ongoing support through our weekly groups and clubs. These run 52 weeks of the year with trips and activity days in school holidays. We are there for as long as children and young people need us, and if they decide to leave they can come back at any point.
So how and why do we do this when we are no replacement for specialist services like CAHMS?
I spoke to children, young people and their families when I prepared a report for the West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership as part of my Health Equity Fellowship and they told me they wanted mental health support closer to home from those they know and trust.
At SELFA we have upskilled our staff & volunteers through a wide range of training, access to external supervision as well as supporting them to gain professional qualifications. This has in turn enabled us to support children & young people with a range of mental health symptoms, including those who need urgent help with their mental health.
We couldn’t do this without being part of a massive network of support, other organisations across health, social care and the voluntary sector have helped us access their training and involved us in joint funding bids. They provide us with infrastructure support, and they see that working with us benefits everyone!
There is still a long way to go and much more we can do. We know that one in four children with a probable mental health disorder live in household that have experienced reduction in income in the past year, and that a lower proportion of Asian and Asian British children and young people are in community services compared to the average population.
Using this data along with local intelligence can help us bridge the gap for those who are most likely to experience health inequalities, helping us to realise our vision of a community where children and young people are celebrated and know they belong.
Emma Pears is the founder and CEO of SELFA Children’s Charity based in the Craven district and is well-known for her campaigning on children and young people’s mental health in rural communities, which is deeply rooted in her own experience as a parent of a child with mental health support needs.