On Thursday 1st July, Alan Johnson featured on the Channel 4 Dispatches documentary, ‘Kids in Crisis’. This powerful programme looked at the experiences of families across the UK, where children as young as 13 are being separated from their parents to receive mental health treatment hundreds of miles from home, due to a lack of available care locally. The documentary explored how parents try to cope with these changes and the impact on the lives of four young adults, many of whom suffer from thoughts of self-harm and suicide, and turn to the Internet to support each other.
The West End psychiatric unit in Hessle closed in 2013 because of the government’s restructuring of the NHS. One of the children affected by this closure is Beth Hopper, who featured on the programme. Beth was sent 120 miles away and, in the past 10 months, has been moved 14 times. All the travelling has led to Beth’s mother, Kathy, giving up her job and the family home being repossessed.
In January 2015, the Hull Daily Mail launched their Kids in Crisis campaign to support the families of those children who are sent away for treatment. The campaign has been calling on NHS England and Hull and East Riding Clinical Commissioning Groups to reinstate an inpatient unit for children from East Yorkshire and to provide better out-of-hours care for children in crisis.
Alan Johnson, Beth’s local MP, raised the ordeal that Beth and her family are facing at an NHS debate in the House of Commons. Alan read out a heart wrenching letter written by Beth to her mother which included statements such as ‘I feel like no one is listening to me’ and ‘I want to have the chance to be a kid for once before it is too late’. The Rt Hon Norman Lamb MP, Minister of State for Community and Social Care at the time, agreed that it is ‘intolerable that Beth is being shunned around the country’ and stated that it is ‘unacceptable that this continues to happen.’
Another of Alan’s constituents, Sally Burke, is in a similar situation regarding her daughter, Maisie. Sally and her family have run a powerful campaign and will be joining Alan at a meeting with the new Minister, Alistair Burt, to try and end this ‘scandalous’ and ‘unacceptable’ situation on behalf of Maisie, Beth and all the other children affected by the absence of inpatient Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services facilities in their location.