YOUNG people in Argyll and Bute will get the mental health support they need during the Covid-19 pandemic, a concerned councillor has been assured.

Councillor Douglas Philand asked whether a projected spend of £1,000 on a telephone helpline to support young people during the coronavirus crisis would be enough.

The forecast expenditure for the helpline was one of several projections put forward in a budget report to the council’s business continuity committee (BCC) for its meeting conducted via Skype on Thursday, May 14.

However, the council’s chief internal auditor said that the £1,000 was only an estimate – and admitted that some of the financial projections in the report were “finger in the air” numbers, with the true cost unlikely to be known until after the money has been spent.

And the authority’s executive director and policy lead for education also gave assurances that support would be given during the pandemic.

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Councillor Philand said: “There is an alarm bell in my head looking at the cost pressures of the psychological telephone helpline.

“Are we sure that amount of money is enough to cover that? From what we hear nationally, and this is almost anecdotal, the need for this service is epidemic.”

Chief internal auditor Laurence Slavin responded: “We knew that there was going to be an increase, and it is a really difficult one for us to estimate. Some of these figures are more ‘finger in the air’ than others.

“As these things develop, we will be in a better position to determine how reflective the estimates are against actuals.”

Douglas Hendry, the council’s executive director with responsibility for education, then said: “We are keeping it at a high level. I agree with the point that it is an estimate for the helpline.

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“There are a whole range of other things going on to help young people with psychological issues.

“There are a number of priorities and the helpline is an element of that. We will ensure young people get the support they need.”

And Councillor Yvonne McNeilly, the policy lead for education, added: “Douglas (Hendry), myself and the team speak daily.

“The team are doing an absolutely sterling job, but head teachers and staff are better placed within schools to know who is likely to be at risk.

“They are getting a huge amount of information back and that is very much at the forefront of our thinking – how are families and young people coping during the current situation?

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“I have also heard from the Scottish Youth Parliament about how they are managing, especially around the examination issues with this year’s exams being cancelled.

“It is a very serious and difficult time for our young people. They live in very difficult times – I am glad I was a teenager in the 1970s and not now.

“But I cannot praise highly enough the work that is being done, and the speed it is being done at.”

The helpline is available by calling 01546 605524.

It is staffed on Mondays and Fridays from 9.30am to 12 noon, and on Wednesdays from 4.30pm to 7pm.

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