Tackling poverty ‘key’ to improving children’s mental health in Barnet

Overcrowded housing said to be contributing to young people’s poor mental health, reports Grace Howarth, Local Democracy Reporter

A young woman in a blue hoodie holding her clenched fists over her face
credit Radar

Barnet Council has pledged to improve mental health in children and young people by tackling poverty – as data reveals a sharp disparity between the poorest and wealthiest households.

Currently Barnet has 10,942 young people in “absolute low-income families” and 13,288 in “relative low-income families” and the wards with the highest proportions of these young people are Colindale North, Burnt Oak and Crickewood.

Nationally, children from the poorest 20% of households were four times as likely to have a serious mental health difficulty by the age of eleven as those from the wealthiest 20%, according to a 2015 study.

The data was discussed during a cabinet meeting yesterday (Tuesday 14th) where Pauline Coakley-Webb, cabinet member for family friendly Barnet, presented a report on young people’s mental health which highlighted “place-based” approaches to mental health and wellbeing support facilities was needed, and signposting improved, to tackle the issue. 

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Council leader Barry Rawlings said: “One of the answers in tackling the crisis in mental health is definitely tackling poverty. That’s why it’s something we hope to do going forward.”

Ross Houston, cabinet member for homes and regeneration, highlighted the role housing played.

Cllr Houston said: “One of the key elements of that is a properly sized accommodation being available to families, there’s no doubt if you’re a 13-year-old sharing a bedroom with two others you’re more likely to be involved in things you shouldn’t be, and less likely to be settled. 

“It’s about the opportunities and impacts, a child with their own bedroom, a luxury many can’t have, will impact educational attainment.

“Overcrowding is an issue in the borough and there’s a need for larger family units.”

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