Crucial services for children and young people with mental health problems are being cut across the country, claims research carried out by the charity YoungMinds.
A survey of health trusts and councils has found that more than half have cut their budgets for children and young people’s mental health services for 2011/2012. A Freedom of Information request sent to 120 service providers and commissioners generated 55 responses, of which 29 said they would reduce spend in this area.
The biggest reductions are in councils, with some reporting cuts of up to 25 per cent, which are threatening early intervention services.
The research also shows that teams of specialist workers, such as school nurses, who are trained to identify and treat children with emotional problems, are being disbanded. Drop-in and counselling services are also among those being axed, while nurse and social worker posts are being cut in a number of areas.
“Draining money from early intervention services will mean young people with problems will not be identified quickly and their problems will worsen, which will in turn push referrals to specialist services up and increase waiting times”, said Sarah Brennan, Chief Executive of YoungMinds.
The charity goes on to argue that, beyond the increased suffering individuals with mental health issues will have to endure, the current cuts are also “economically unsound”, as the more intensive support and treatment which will be necessary is much more expensive. “In a period of austerity this is short-sighted, and just stores up problems for the future as young people are left without access to early help, meaning mental health problems become more serious and entrenched”, said Miss Brennan.