Members' Questions on Notice
To receive questions from Members under Rules 4a.20(b)-25
Councillor Billy Greening asked Councillor Claire Vickers, Cabinet Member for Community & Wellbeing, the following question:
‘The whole country is facing a mental health crisis, no more is this evident than amongst young people. 80% of young people feel that the Coronavirus pandemic had made their mental health worse. This was often related to increased feelings of anxiety, isolation, a loss of coping mechanisms or a loss of motivation. I too have been one of these people.
Research published by the British Medical Journal found that women, young adults, socially disadvantaged people, and people with pre-existing mental health problems reported the worst mental health outcomes during the pandemic. And, tragically, we have seen the impacts of Mental Health problems throughout our district in recent months.
What more can HDC do to work with youth services, schools, WSCC and others to ensure that young people throughout the Horsham District are able to get the help that their mental and emotional health needs?
Would the Council consider setting up a youth body that engaged more proactively with young people, to ensure their voices are heard and that they are considered and listened to with decisions that this Council makes.’
The Cabinet Member replied:
‘The events in recent weeks have tragically highlighted how young people have suffered during the Coronavirus pandemic. There are a range of services available for people of all ages to access immediate support, with more details available on the Council’s website. However, we need our young people to know it really is okay not to be okay. And we need to make sure advice and support is there when they need it. This includes resources for those worried about a friend or relative.
HDC is not the expert in this field, nor do we lead on this agenda. However we do have a number of initiatives to engage with young people including the Youth Engagement Bus, and Local Youth Officers. But there will always be more that can be done. We are keen to explore with our partners that lead on Mental Health Service provision, and those partners in the Education Sector, to see how we can all work together to prevent the deaths of young residents who may feel they have no other options available to them.
As the newly appointed Cabinet Member for Community & Wellbeing, I will make the commitment now for our teams to talk to young residents of our district and see how we can work more closely together. Whether this is a youth body or similar, it is important that it’s shaped by young residents themselves, one which can be sure Council services meet the needs of our young people, gives an appropriate platform for those residents to be able to raise their concerns, consider ideas for improvement and help shape services. Councillor Greening, you have my absolute commitment that young people’s mental health is a priority for me and I will ask this to go on my next PDAG (Policy Development Advisory Group) agenda on 5 July.’
In reply, Councillor Greening asked a supplementary question:
‘When this goes on the agenda for your next PDAG would you consider the idea of a mental health festival that could incorporate things throughout our district and could show that the Council can lead on these things, and that it is okay not to be okay and bring young people into that conversation?’
The Cabinet Member replied:
‘I will be very happy to consider anything that I think will help young people’s mental health and we will discuss all those options.’
The Chairman stated that Councillors were all aware of the circumstances surrounding this question and the Members joined him in sending condolences to those grieving for the young lives that had been lost.