North’s mental health service for young people ‘on its knees’

Children’s commissioner: Vacuum left by powersharing impasse fuelling political inertia

Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People Koulla Yiasouma highlighted that almost one in  four of the region’s children and young people are affected by ‘significant’ mental health problems. Photograph: PA

Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People Koulla Yiasouma highlighted that almost one in four of the region’s children and young people are affected by ‘significant’ mental health problems. Photograph: PA

 

Northern Ireland’s powersharing crisis has brought young people’s mental health services to its knees, the children’s commissioner has warned.

Koulla Yiasouma highlighted that almost one of four of the region’s children and young people are now affected by “significant mental health issues”. And she expressed concern that their needs are not being properly addressed due to a lack of government action.

Mrs Yiasouma, who began her second four-year term in office at the weekend, also cautioned that not enough was being done to tackle spiralling child poverty rates.

She was initially appointed by Stormont’s first and deputy first ministers in 2015, but her reappointment was made by Secretary of State Karen Bradley in the absence of a functioning devolved administration.

“I am just gutted we are here,” she said of the political impasse. “I am gutted for our kids. I don’t want another four years of this, I want to be a commissioner who can advise our government on the best way forward for the children of Northern Ireland and I want to be working in partnership with ministers, with the Executive and Stormont. And I am gutted that I have not been able to do that bit of my job for two years.”

As Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, Mrs Yiasouma’s role is to promote and safeguard the rights and interests of the youngest generation.

She said the collapse of Stormont means policy decisions on investing and improving mental health services are not being taken. She also pointed to a lack of data on how current services are working.

Mrs Yiasouma said civil servants were doing their best but the practical impact of the deadlock meant no one was taking the tough decisions to stop services proved to be ineffective and reinvest and embrace new approaches. – PA