The Conservative Administration on Essex County Council is taking a proactive approach to the mental health challenges faced by the county’s young people whilst recognising the complexity of the issue.
Several amendments were proposed to opposition motions at Tuesday’s Full Council Meeting by the Essex Conservative Group which acknowledged the challenges faced and the multi-faceted approach required to tacking increasing mental and physical health issues which are experienced by the County’s young people.
The ‘Non-Aligned Group’s motion was in respect to the increasing mental health challenges faced by young people in Essex. The Conservative Group recognised the work of schools, charities, mental health professionals, social workers, and family support workers, as well as the council officers, stressing the important role professionals and organisations play in the lives of children and young people across the County.
Conservative Councillors who spoke during the debate recognised an increase in the number of mental health problems including self-harm in some Essex schools and the demand for mental health support services for this age group, which is now placing strain on current capacity.
The Conservative’s amended motion stressed that there was no single solution to this problem. To seek a way forward, the Conservatives formally referred this issue to be considered in-depth with a joint review by the People and Families Policy and Scrutiny Committee and the Health Overview Policy and Scrutiny Committee. Following the review, recommendations will be brought forward to the council by the end of the year.
Cllr John Spence, the Cabinet Member responsible for health said, “I welcome this review into this important area and look forward to hearing the recommendations which are brought forward. Mental Health in the County’s Children and Young People is a significant issue which requires in-depth consideration when considering a way forward.”
A secondary motion was put forward concerning the worsening physical and mental health of children across the county. The motion highlighted that many children in Essex were obese or overweight, with 4 in 10 children obese or overweight by Year 6. Further to this many children across the county are experiencing mental health issues. The role that the lack of physical activity had to play in this issue was noted.
In response to this challenge, the Conservative’s amended motion highlighted the importance of physical activity for young people. Cllr Jaymey Mcivor, who proposed the amended motion said, “There is no single solution to this complicated issue. We need a plan to improve health, wellbeing, and the environment for young people. This requires working in partnership with schools, community partners as well as individual parents to find a positive way forward.”
Speaking to the amended motion Conservative Councillors noted that schemes such as “School Streets” have been introduced in some communities across Essex, providing safe cycle and pedestrian routes which can be used on the route to school to incorporate exercise into a young person's daily routine. Further to this great work has been undertaken by Active Essex to help increase the physical activity undertaken by the county’s young people.
Cllr Lee Scott who is responsible for sustainable transport said, “I look forward to working with colleagues across the county to consider how we may increase active travel for young people, as part of a wider strategy in addressing challenges faced in young people and children’s physical and mental health. There is no single solution to this significant challenge.”
The Conservative Group agreed to bring forward further plans to improve health, wellbeing, and the environment for all residents, to the October Full Council.