Better mental health care for Canterbury kids

As Christchurch moves towards the next phase of the rebuild, the physical damage from the earthquakes is being fixed, but the impact on people is still very real. Children and young people, in particular, are showing higher rates of mental health needs. The rebuild will not be complete until the children affected by the earthquakes have the help they need.

Christchurch is struggling with a unique mental health crisis. Since 2011, there has been a 73 per cent increase in children requiring support for mental health issues. Kaikōura is likely to face similar problems.

Canterbury District Health Board has responded to this crisis with the limited funding it gets, but the need far outstrips the available resources. CDHB’s school mental health team provides help to children at primary, intermediate, and secondary level – but it has just seven full-time staff covering 136 schools.

We need to do more to help the children of Canterbury through the continued disruption and change in the aftermath of the earthquakes. 

Labour’s commitment to boosting health funding by $8b more than National, including restoring National’s $2.3b of underfunding, gives us the resources to get our children the help they need.

Labour will:

  • Provide eighty health professionals to provide mental health services in primary and intermediate schools in Christchurch and other earthquake-affected parts of Canterbury, including Kaikōura, for an initial three years.

This will mean there will be a full-time mental health professional for every 500 primary and intermediate aged school children in Christchurch, Kaikōura and other earthquake-affected parts of Canterbury.

Every primary and intermediate school will regularly have mental health professionals on-site to help children who need it, with mental health workers from different specialities serving in clusters of schools.

These mental health workers will be a multi-disciplinary team consisting of social workers, registered nurses, counsellors, occupational therapists, and community mental health workers with access to psychologist support.

The goal of this investment will be to provide in-school counselling, social work, and interventions from the range of qualified professionals different children need. Low to medium level mental health needs are the target for this kind of intervention while providing teachers and parents with practical support and training.

This service recognises the inappropriately long waiting times for mental health services that children in Canterbury and Kaikōura are experiencing. This investment is expected to cost $10m a year, funded out of the $8b boost to health funding that Labour has already announced.

This policy will complement Labour’s plans to roll out school-based health services in all public secondary schools, and primary mental health teams in eight areas, including one in Canterbury. Existing services, including social workers in schools and other NGO services currently delivering to children, will remain
the same. 

Together, this amounts to $193m over three years to address mental health, in addition to the $50m a year the Government has announced in Budget 2017.

This is a first step towards assisting Canterbury and Kaikōura to deliver high quality mental health services to their populations. 

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