Boost Universal Credit to save children’s mental health, says Centre for Mental Health

30 September 2021

The Government should rethink its plan to reduce Universal Credit payments as a vital measure to protect children’s mental health, Centre for Mental Health chief executive Sarah Hughes said today.

Responding to data published by NHS Digital showing that children living in poverty have higher rates of mental ill health, Sarah Hughes said: “One child in six in England is experiencing mental health difficulty this year: the same as during the first Covid-19 lockdown. Children living in families that have struggled to pay bills or afford food during the pandemic are twice as likely to have a mental health difficulty.

“Reducing Universal Credit payments by £20 a week at the same time as ending the furlough scheme will put children and families across the country at extra risk of mental ill health. Keeping the lifeline will mitigate this risk for many families at a crucial time for children.

“The survey of children’s mental health shows that half of all children assessed with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) have a mental health difficulty. This requires urgent attention to ensure that disabled children are supported with their mental health and get access to high quality care and treatment when they need it.

“Yet again we are unable to draw conclusions about the mental health of children and young people from racialised communities as the data used in this survey is insufficient. The Government must invest in improving data collection to help our understanding about their experiences and the impact of racial inequality in childhood.

“We are at a tipping point for the nation’s mental health. Continued high rates of Covid-19 infection, especially in schools, and the economic impacts of Brexit are compounding major risk factors such as financial inequality, racism, and violence against women and girls.”

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