Cuts to children’s mental health provision set to be reversed in landmark decision by Lewisham Council

Town hall cuts to mental health provision for children are set to be reversed.

Mayor Steve Bullock announced more than £100,000 worth of savings would be reversed at a cabinet meeting of Lewisham council on Wednesday.

The No Cuts to CAMHS campaign highlighted the impact of the budget cuts to the Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in the borough and sparked a change of mind by the ruling Labour group.

Campaigners had gathered outside Lewisham Civic Centre and handed Mayor Bullock a petition with more than 11,000 signatures on it as he entered the building.

Maggie Palmer, a Lewisham CAMHS therapist of 16 years and representative of union Unite, said after the meeting: “We are pleased that we have been able to make people listen and change their mind.

“We knew this campaign had put the mayor and council under huge pressure, more than 11,000 people signed the petition and more than 100 people came to our public meeting.

“We have massive support in Lewisham and support that was increasing all the time, so in a way we are not surprised.

“This shows that a united campaign can win, just like the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign.”

Lewisham council cut children’s mental health funding last year by £94,000 and had planned to cut a further £150,000 in the next two years.

But the mayor and cabinet’s decision last night means these cuts will now be halted and reversed.

CAMHS in Lewisham is funded by the council and the Lewisham Clinical Commissioning Group.

Its total funding for 2017/18 in Lewisham is £4,300,000, with £940,000 coming from the council.

Ms Palmer, 50, of Crofton Park, added: “We are hearing that colleagues who work in Southwark and Lambeth are inspired by our victory.
“We want to build a massive campaign across the councils and CAMHS throughout South London.”

Tony O’Sullivan, a retired paediatrician and co-chair of the Keep Our NHS Public group, said: “We thank the mayor and council for reversing these damaging cuts.

“We realise that cuts to local authorities spending and NHS funding means that more challenges will be just around the corner and as a campaign we are committed to defending the quality of the NHS across Lewisham.”

The CAMHS campaign was brought to the cabinet by the Children and Young Person Select Committee (CYPSC) and the Business Panel.
Cllr Alan Hall, chairman  of the Business Panel, said: “I am pleased with the Mayor’s decision.

“He has agreed with the Business Panel and I believe it is right to consider any further proposals for CAMHS with best practice, NHS funding and patient demand.”

CYPSC chairman Cllr Luke Sorba said: “Members of my own family have had to use CAMHS locally.

“My daughter had a life-threatening condition and it was CAMHS that saved her.

“As a council we are in an impossible position with savage cuts from central government resulting in us losing almost half our staff since 2010 and we have other essential services to find money for such as Adult Social Care.

“But I feel that given the recent increase in young people’s mental health needs it is time to revisit that area of our budget.”

Lewisham CAMHS offers therapeutic interventions to children and young people up to the age of 18 who experience mental health concerns that impact their daily life.

At the select committee on January 30 it was noted that there are children who have been waiting since October for an assessment.

On top of that, some children are waiting a further six months between assessment and treatment.

A report by council officers will be delivered to the mayor and cabinet looking into the impact savings have had on services so far with a particular focus on waiting times.

The report will also look into the option to reduce back office costs within CAMHS to protect direct services to users and officers will have to find alternative savings within the Children and Young People’s overall budget equivalent to those they had planned for CAMHS.

A full council meeting will be held on February 21.

CAMHS representatives are calling on the public to join them at the council meeting on Wednesday to celebrate the decision.

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