AWAY from the cut and thrust of party politics and set piece debates, in the Assembly it’s often at committee level where you really get to drill down into the detail of some really important and often very topical issues.
As a member of the Children and Young People’s Committee, the inquiry we’re currently undertaking into Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAHMS) in Wales is a real case in point.
Because we’ve known for many years that there are some very serious gaps in CAHMS provision and that there’s an unacceptable level of variation in the services available in different parts of the country.
And yet despite a number of really well intentioned Welsh Government strategies and initiatives that have come and gone, the lack of headway we’ve made over the last decade is really exasperating – particularly given the fact there is now far more awareness and recognition of the importance of mental health and wellbeing across society more widely.
This was clear when we debated the Children’s Commissioner’s Annual Report in the Assembly last year and members from across the political divide spoke, frustrated that concerns around CAHMS provision were being raised year after year, with apparently little or no progress to report.
We’ve also seen a lot of media coverage recently around the staff shortages that are affecting CAHMS services in parts of Wales, and the extended waiting times this can lead to. But there are other important issues that remain unaddressed – not least the continuing problem of children and young people being inappropriately admitted to adult mental health wards.
As part of our committee’s inquiry, last week we took some really interesting evidence from a clinical psychologist based at St Cadoc’s Hospital in Caerleon.
It was clear that despite being a really dedicated professional who was doing some really fantastic work with often very disadvantaged children and young people, they were really concerned about a scarcity of provision in a number of key areas, particularly when it comes to early intervention, which is worrying when we know how important those early years are in terms of influencing the life chances of our young people.
Although, I have dealt with a number of specific cases down the years that I intend to feed into the inquiry as it progresses, I’m really keen to hear about my constituent’s experiences of CAHMS services locally, so if you’d like to get in touch, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 01495 740022.