2 Public health need and practice

2 Public health need and practice

Young children's social and emotional wellbeing is important in its own right but also because it affects their physical health (both now and in the future). It can determine whether or not they develop healthy lifestyles. It can also determine how well they do at school.

In 2004, 10% of children and young people aged 5–16 had a clinically diagnosed mental disorder (Office for National Statistics 2004). Older children (aged 11–16 years) were more likely than younger children (aged 5–10) to be affected (12% compared with 8%). Mental disorders among young people increased between 1974 and 1999 (Collishaw et al. 2004). However, this upward trend was halted during 1999–2004, according to the most recent national survey of young people aged 5–16 years (Office for National Statistics 2004).

In 2004, boys were generally more likely to have a mental disorder than girls, and the prevalence of mental illness was greater among children living:

  • within disrupted families (lone parent, reconstituted)

  • with parents who have no educational qualifications

  • within poorer families and in disadvantaged areas (Office for National Statistics 2004).

There is variation by ethnicity. Children aged 5–10 who are white, Pakistani or Bangladeshi appear more likely to have a mental disorder than black children. Indian children are least likely to have such problems. Looked after children aged 5–10 were at least five times more likely than average to have a mental disorder (42% versus 8%) (Office for National Statistics 2004).

Policy background

The guidance will support the following national service frameworks (NSFs) and other government policies:

  • 'National service framework for children, young people and maternity services' (DH 2004a)

  • 'National service framework for mental health' (DH 1999)

  • 'Every child matters' green paper (HM Government 2003), and 'Every child matters: change for children' programme (HM Government 2004)

  • 'Higher standards, better schools for all' (Department for Education and Skills 2005a)

  • 'Promoting children's mental health within early years and school settings' (Department for Education and Employment 2001)

  • 'Excellence and enjoyment: social and emotional aspects of learning' (Department for Education and Skills 2005b)

  • 'Healthy minds: promoting emotional health and wellbeing in schools' (Ofsted 2005)

  • 'Bullying – a charter for action' (Department for Education and Skills 2003a)

  • 'Bullying: effective action in secondary schools' (Ofsted 2003)

  • 'Guidance for schools on developing emotional health and wellbeing' (Department for Children, Schools and Families 2007)

  • 'The respect action plan' (Home Office 2006)

  • 'Healthy living blueprint for schools' (Department for Education and Skills 2004)

  • Education and Inspection Act (HM Government 2006)

  • 'Choosing health: making healthier choices easier' (DH 2004b)

  • National healthy school status – a guide for schools' (Department for Education and Skills 2005c)

  • 'Our health, our care, our say' (DH 2006)

  • 'Making it possible: improving mental health and well-being in England' (National Institute for Mental Health in England 2005)

  • 'Aiming high: raising the achievement of minority ethnic pupils' (Department for Education and Skills 2003b)

  • 'Promoting the health of looked after children' (DH 2001)

  • 'A better education for children in care' (Social Exclusion Unit 2003)

  • 'Managing pupil mobility' (Department for Education and Skills 2003c)

  • 'Special education needs: third report of session 2005–06' (House of Commons Education and Skills Committee 2006).