Only one in five children with mental health problems received support last year, the children’s commissioner for England has warned.
Anne Longfield’s report suggests that just over 200,000 children received CAMHS treatment last year, which equates to 2.6% of the age 5-17 population.
“Comparing this to recent research on the number of children with a mental health condition we estimate that between 1 in 4 and 1 in 5 children with a mental health condition received helped last year,” said the report.
The children’s commissioner for England has raised concerns about the “shockingly poor” mental health services for children and young people and highlighted the huge disparity between services for children and adults with mental health problems.
While NHS England is explicit of expectations about what should be provided for adults, backed up by targets and benchmarks on success rates and waiting times, there is no monitoring of how many children are seeking mental health treatment, no information on how many are accepted into treatment, how long they will wait or what outcomes they achieve, says the report.
She adds that it is “too easy” for children’s mental health to be ignored given the financial constraints the NHS is facing given that children’s mental health indicators are not top priority targets.
Many of the issues facing children with mental health problems could be averted if children could access treatment as and when they needed it yet early intervention services are dictated by a postcode lottery. In addition there is no clear guidance as to how ill a child should be before they receive help and intervention.
The Green Paper should set out clear expectations as to what a child can expect in terms of mental health support and needs to make it clear which bodies are responsible for providing each element of this support.
In particular, it should seek to ensure:
> That every child benefits from teaching and a school environment which helps them build up emotional resilience
>That any child who needs it can access early support for problems when they first start to emerge. This could include parenting support or a short course of therapy.
> That any child with a more serious condition is able to access high-quality, specialist support within clear waiting time standards.
> That when there is a clear clinical need for in-patient care, that children can access this without delay, as close to their home as possible, and for no longer than is necessary. For this to happen, in-patient services needed to be integrated with community services.
In order for this happen, the Green Paper needs to make it clear which bodies are responsible for providing each element of this support with clear expectations placed on schools, local authorities, Clinical Commissioning Groups and NHS England. These organisations need to be held to account on their performance, the report says.
In 2018 when new data is available on the level of need, clear targets should be set to increase the proportion of NHS funding spent on children’s mental health.
Ms Longfield warned that a “wholesale shift” was needed in the scale of ambition across government and the NHS on children’s mental health care.
““I want to see a clear expectation as to what local areas should be providing, with transparency and accountability to ensure this happens,” she concluded.