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Image © Children's Commissioner

A Head Start: Early support for children’s mental health

July 2022

This report describes six ambitions for early mental health support for children. These are based on the ideas children shared with the Children’s Commissioner’s Office. Alongside this the report has been shaped by wider engagement and thinking conducted to date on mental health with stakeholders, policymakers, organisations and charities, and parents and carers.

The ambitions set out to ensure we provide “whole childhood support,” from birth to adulthood. Starting with support for families before a child is even born, and through the early years, we set out the need to build strong foundations for good mental health. In order to prevent problems building up, children need to have time and space to have fun safely online and in the real world. If problems do emerge, children need access to early help in school, online or in the community. When specialist help is needed, it should be easy for children to access, with no child turned away.

Ambition 1. Every family receives support to promote good mental health and wellbeing through pregnancy and the early years through Family Hubs, including mental health support for parents where needed.

Ambition 2. All children are protected from harm and taught the digital skills they need to be safe online, making the online world safe and exciting place for children to have fun, learn and connect with others, and all.

Ambition 3. All children have plentiful access to safe and fun spaces to play with their friends.

Ambition 4. All children’s needs are met where they are and they receive support in school, through families of schools.

Ambition 5. The taboo of accessing support needs to be broken by making sure children can access it quickly, locally, in their communities or online.

Ambition 6. Specialist NHS support is available for any child who needs it, with no child turned away or stuck in a spiral of escalation whilst waiting for support.

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