Vital mental health service for pupils in Fife axed

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Penumbra has hit out at Fife Council after it confirmed its £200,000 funding to provide mental health services in schools will not be renewed

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3rd February 2016 by Paul Cardwell 0 Comments

A crucial youth project which helps hundreds of secondary school pupils in Fife who have mental health problems is to close after the council has slashed its funding.

Penumbra says it received notification over Christmas from Fife Council that it was pulling all funding for Penumbra Youth Project.

The project, which received £200,000 a year to run, helped 459 teenagers in the first two terms of 2015/16 but will now have to close in March unless the authority makes a u-turn.

Nigel Henderson, Penumbra chief executive, blasted the decision as “short sighted”, he said: “This is precisely the opposite of what Fife Council should be doing to support the mental health of young people.

Vital mental health service for pupils in Fife axedNigel Henderson

We believe this is an extremely short-sighted move and we will be fighting hard to save the service from closure

“Nearly 10% of children aged 5-16 suffer from a diagnosable mental health condition but the problem is many of these conditions go unrecognised and untreated. Research consistently shows that identifying mental health problems early offers young people the best prospect of recovery and actually saves public money by drastically reducing the amount of support they need later in life.

“We believe this is an extremely short-sighted move and we will be fighting hard to save the service from closure.”

A petition asking Fife Council to reverse its decision has been signed almost 1,000 times by pupils, parents and teachers.

The cut will see all one-to-one support, drop-in sessions and a peer mentor scheme provided by the project finish.

Community outreach support for young people who are not attending school because of their mental health will also end.

Launched 12 years ago, the project currently offers one day of support per week to all 19 high schools in Fife and employs four full-time senior workers and two part-time workers.

Staff provide support around anxiety and stress, acting as a vital early intervention service for young people with emerging mental health problems. The service significantly reduces the need for costly NHS services in later life.

There are fears that closing the project will increase the burden on already stretched statutory services in Fife.

The most recent figures show only 70% of those referred to Fife Child and Adolescence Mental Health Services (CAMHS) were seen within the 18-week Scottish Government target.

The cut also adds more stature to a Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC) statement made this week which said thousands of children is Scotland with additional support needs miss out on extra help at school due to where they live.

Amber Higgins, Penumbra Youth Project manager, said: “We provide specialist support to every high school in Fife and I worry what will happen when that help is no longer there for pupils.

“Between last August and December we provided one-to-one support to nearly 500 pupils. The closure of our service will seriously reduce Fife capacity to support young people's metal health.”

Fife Council head of education and children’s services, Carrie Lindsay, confirmed funding for the project is no longer available.

She added: “It was originally funding from a Change Fund that was expected to develop initiatives that test out new ways of working. 

“All funding within the council has been subject to consideration as part of successive budget reductions. This is the implementation of a budget saving from 2015/16.

“Council services and NHS Fife will continue to work with children and young people to support their wellbeing needs. 

“A joint strategy is currently being developed to address the wellbeing needs for all children and young people across the community planning partnership.”

Penumbra is also asking people to complete an online submission on the Fife Council website.

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