Children’s needs are not being met by mental health system

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Reflection in mirror of teenage girl feeling sick

Progress in the provision of mental health services for children
does not mask the “chasm between what children need and
what is being provided”, says the Children’s Commissioner for
England Anne Longfield.

The injection of an extra £60 million for specialist children’s
mental health services has contributed to an improvement in
provision, with an additional 53,000 children entering treatment,
the Commissioner states in her annual bulletin on child mental
health services. She points in particular to an increase of almost
50 per cent in the number of children accessing eating disorder
services since 2016/17.

However, The Commissioner warns that services are still “far
from where they need to be” and do not meet the needs of
the estimated 12.8 per cent of children in England with mental
health problems – or many more children who fall just below
the threshold for clinical diagnosis. Roughly three per cent of
children were referred to services last year, which equates to just
one in four children with a diagnosable mental health condition.

The Commissioner’s research finds huge regional variation in
terms of the quality of service provided. While some clinical
commissioning groups (CCGs) are able to ensure more than
90 per cent of children referred actually enter treatment, in ten
CCG areas this figure is lower the 50 per cent. Although children
make up 20 per cent of the population, only ten per cent of
mental health spending is allocated to them.

Of the 195 CCGs in England, 161 increased spending on mental
health services for children and young people in 2018/19, with
average spends going up from £54 to £59 per child in real terms.

Anne Longfield welcomed the positive developments on
children’s mental health seen over the last two years, and the
promise of further improvements in coming years. However, she
cautioned that greater numbers of children are seeking support
and the Government needs to ensure help is available. “We are
still a decade away from a decent mental health service for all
children”, she said.

The Commissioner has sent formal statutory notices to a number
of areas which national data indicates are lagging behind other
areas of the country. “It is still not clear whether national and local
government and the NHS is facing up to the scale of problems
in children’s mental health services and the devastating impact
this has on children”, she said.

To read the report, The state of children’s mental health services,
go to childrenscommissioner.gov.uk

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