It is alarming that the Good Childhood report published in August sets out the shocking scale of disadvantages some children experience including evidence that young people's happiness with their life as a whole is at its lowest since 2010. I agree that it is important that we consider how we tackle the serious problems identified by the report as leaving teenagers more likely to be unhappy, such as emotional neglect and living in a family struggling to pay the bills.
The report argues that there is an increasing gap emerging between the scale of the need and the funding available for local authorities to help children and families deal with these problems. I know the Local Government Association has said the funding gap for children's services is expected to reach £2 billion by 2020 and is putting vital work at risk, and has called for the Government to provide the resources that councils need to keep children safe and well.
It is unacceptable that there are now nearly four million children living in poverty. The Labour manifesto at the recent general election committed to deliver a new Child Poverty Strategy. It also pledged to introduce a Breathing Space scheme for households struggling with high debts. The current Government also had a manifesto commitment to adopt a Breathing Space scheme and I will hold it to account on this commitment.
Supporting young people's mental health is crucial, particularly through prevention and early intervention. Too many children and young people are still not getting the support they need. Despite the Government making repeated promises to give mental health the same priority as physical health, 40% of NHS trusts saw cuts to mental health budgets in 2015/16. There are also fewer doctors and 6,000 fewer mental health nurses than in 2010 and money intended for mental health has been used to plug funding gaps in the wider NHS.
I believe we should increase the proportion of mental health budgets spent on support for children and young people. More widely I support investment in school counselling, which has been shown to prevent mental health problems worsening in adolescence and adulthood.