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Bonkers Blog October 2019

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22 October (Part 2) - Mental Health in Bexley. In good hands?

Last week’s Joint Adults’ and Children’s Services Scrutiny meeting chaired by Councillor Cafer Munir was not exactly a scintillating affair, not his fault but I don’t find the subject matter terribly interesting. Roads, shops, budgets, crime and transport are more my thing, not mental health problems, I get enough of that on a daily basis without attending Bexley Council meetings. Maybe I should go to the equivalent Scrutiny meeting in Newham instead.

Councillor Sybil Camsey (Conservative, Crook Log) is always on the look out for problems affecting school children and she was concerned to hear of a 14 year old threatening suicide who was not helped anything like quickly enough. It was more than a little alarming to hear her quote the internal report forecasting that the number of children in Bexley with mental problems was heading for 11%. “What training was being given to teachers to recognise these problems?”

She was told that suicidal children are usually sent to A&E and the Crisis Team would do a risk assessment on the same day. Councillor Camsey said that within the past two years three of her former male pupils had committed suicide in their very early 20s. “Why weren’t they picked up and helped?”

In fact there were at least five male suicides within the borough in the past year and the reason given was “stresses”. Councillor Camsey asked again what was being done to pick such things up earlier. She was told schools should be doing it.

Councillor Wendy Perfect (Labour, Northumberland Heath) said the local mental health report included no data for the over 65s and her questioning revealed that young females tended to have emotional problems and boys more behavioural issues. No one would have guessed.

I was not present at the meeting, but I recorded the webcast which is not the right way to feel the atmosphere, neither do I know exactly who was providing answers; with Councillors I recognise voices. However my impression was that those answers lacked confidence to put it politely.

Councillor James Hunt (Conservative, Blackfen & Lamorbey) confirmed my view. He was “gravely concerned” about constantly hearing “we will get back to you, I will get a written report, we will come back to you, we don’t have that data and we are not quite sure. You [the Chairman] asked for the information four months ago and it has been on the Agenda for so long and the fact is we can’t seem to get straight answers but surely the data is there and should be collated? This is woefully poor quite frankly and I haven’t got a clue what half of you are talking about. Mr. Chairman, this is terrible.”

The Chairman confirmed that “we asked for the data and for one reason or another we haven’t got it but we will discuss this at the end of the item”. “We will have a lot of work to do then” said James Hunt.

Undeterred Councillor Hunt asked a whole series of questions but generally speaking immediate answers came there none, just promises for them later. In some cases answers were available but only as aggregated figures across three boroughs, not exactly helpful to Bexley Council.

Councillor Richard Diment (Conservative, Sidcup) who knows everything that anyone could possibly know about health issues was also critical but Richard is a diplomat and James may not be.

Oh well, there is another meeting scheduled for 13th February 2020. Enough time for another couple of suicides.

 

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