Letter from Paul Boateng - Parliamentary Under Secretary of State
Mrs Jacqui Lait MP
Dated - 3rd February 1998
Thank you for your letter of l2th January to Alan Milburn enclosing one from your constituent Mrs H Imber about services for children and adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
The Department is aware of the significance of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) in relation to a child's education, family relationships and general social development.
There is a general recognition that this disorder has received significant consideration and a higher profile over the last few years. The Department recognises the importance of accurate assessment, diagnosis and treatment of AD/HD and is also aware of the need for early intervention.
There has been increased dissemination of information about AD/HD to professionals in the field. For example, the Department supported the Royal College of Psychiatrists in the development of a series of factsheets on child mental health problems, including one on AD/HD. We also provided funding for Young Minds to produce guidance on mental health in schools which included advice on the recognition of and response to AD/HD; and similarly we supported the publication of a booklet for GPs on child and adolescent mental health problems including AD/HD.
As Mrs Imber mentions, the Department for Education and Employment recently issued for consultation a Green Paper on meeting special educational needs (Excellence for All Children) which included a strategy for action for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties such as AD/HD. Early identification and intervention, improving staff skills and specialist support and a wider dissemination of best practice were among the proposals on which views were invited. The Green Paper also mentioned the setting up of a sub-group of the National Advisory Group on SEN specifically to examine ways of improving provision for pupils with emotional and behavioural problems.
While AD/HD is now well recognised in children it is emerging that some individuals who have classic childhood AD/HD do not recover as they mature and continue with problems into adult life. Additionally some people first present as young adults with symptoms consistent with the disorder. The clinical picture in adults is of inattention, impulsivity and personal disorganisation. The disorder may coexist with other psychiatric disorders such as depression, substance misuse, explosive outbursts and antisocial behaviour.
The recognition of adult AD/HD is very recent in the UK. There are a few experts but most treatment would be from general adult mental health services. As the adult form of the disorder is starting to receive attention in conferences and the psychiatric journals knowledge about it will become more widespread.
Finally we acknowledge the important role of voluntary groups in providing information, advice and support to those affected by AD/HD. The Department is sympathetic to the development of a national alliance of support groups as mentioned by Mrs Imber. Officials have had preliminary discussions with the Director of Contact a Family about ways in which the Department might foster this development.