Local Children’s Charity, Family Counselling Trust, has seen demand for its services double in the past year. Founder, Robert Montagu, explained some of the reasons for the increase to Fergus Byrne.
Whilst many households have seen an increase in family stress levels due to exam pressure recently, a Dorset based children’s mental health charity, that has seen demand for its services double in the past year, has highlighted many other reasons for an increase in the difficulties faced by young people. Robert Montagu, Chair and founder of Family Counselling Trust said that a rapidly increasing number of troubled children suffering from the pressures of modern life was one of the reasons for the unprecedented demand for their services.
The Trust now has up to 50 referrals a month from GPs, schools and social services to get help for problems including acute anxiety, depression, bereavement, family breakdown and self-harming behaviour. Robert also pointed out that mental health pressures on children are increasing rapidly and are now attacking them at primary school age as well as secondary school. He added that this is due to numerous factors including social media demands—many children are spending almost all their free time on mobiles, the internet, TV and computer games.
He also cited increased parental separation as a factor, explaining that this is ‘quoted in 70% of our referrals.’ Domestic violence and fears of many kinds are also a factor. For example, fear of break-ins, fires, road traffic accidents and heart trouble, all of which are amplified by constant news reports sitcoms and dramas according to Robert.
Another reason for the increase in demand for the Trust’s services is pressure on the NHS. ‘The NHS have been recommending more and more GPs and schools to come to our service rather than trying to enter theirs’ said Robert. ‘Thresholds have risen so much in recent years in the NHS Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) teams, that they are now only taking cases where there is a diagnosable mental health problem, eg personality disorder, severe eating disorders, life-threatening self-harming behaviour, etc’.
Family Counselling Trust is one of many small charities around the country that are pulling up the slack in government-backed services. They offer counselling assistance to children and young people at a time when they need it most. However, the increase in need has produced a huge strain on resources and with no government help, Robert is concerned that they will not be able to offer the help needed. ‘If demand continues at this rate the charity risks having to suspend services as funds are limited’ he explained. Without statutory authority funding of any kind at all Robert believes charities like his will not be able to help prevent further family stress and alleviate social pressure. In the current run-up to an election the subject of mental health is definitely on the agenda but with so may other issues to deal with it is likely to be left to organisations like Family Counselling Trust to step in and help. ‘The last conservative government was very much to blame for stopping the ring-fencing that protected children’s services’ said Robert. ‘According to a recent radio interview with a spokesman for the Royal College of Psychiatry, councils are now routinely raiding mental health services to repair holes in their physical health budgets, where they have a statutory obligation to provide service—whereas in mental health they haven’t. So much for what we care about our children nationwide compared to other countries where children’s services continue to be well provided for!’
Family Counselling Trust is determined not to let the children and young people of Dorset down by closing or restricting their service, yet as Robert says ‘we may have no choice if more funding and donations are not found. We currently receive no funding from Dorset County Council or Dorset NHS despite almost all out referrals coming from GPs, schools, and social workers.’
FCT has helped over 800 Dorset children, young people and their families since it began in 2006. It is now a vital and well-respected provider of help in the region and research has shown a definite improvement from their counselling in 95% of cases without the need for further help for the following year.
Anyone wishing to support their work can find details on how to donate at their website www.familycounsellingtrust.org or may send donations to FCT-Dorset c/o Robert Montagu, Nethergrove House, Portesham, Dorset DT3 4ES.