Young people face barriers to accessing support for mental health

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Parliamentary report finds that Children and Young People face multiple barriers to accessing support at a local level.

A major report on mental health and children and young people has been published by the Health Select Committee (HSC), as part of its enquiry into child and adolescent mental health services.

The report identifies a number of key issues including variation in the provision of services, problems with access to services and bed shortages, children being referred for treatment far from their homes and frozen or reduced budgets in some areas.

The report has 23 recommendations, many of which are aimed at the Children and Young People’s Mental Health & Wellbeing Taskforce, which has been set up jointly between the Department of Health and NHS England.

Early intervention services provide support to children and young people before mental health problems become entrenched and increase in severity. These services reduce the need for higher tier services including admission. The report found however that in many areas early intervention services are being cut or are suffering from insecure or short term funding. While demand for mental health services for children and adolescents appears to be rising, many CCGs report having frozen or cut their budgets. CCGs have the power to determine their own local priorities, but the Committee is concerned that insufficient priority is being given to children and young people’s mental health.

In community Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS) services, providers have reported increased waiting times for CAMHS services and increased referral thresholds. This in some cases is coupled with challenges in maintaining service quality, as a result of rising demand in the context of reductions in funding. Not all services reported difficulties – some state that they have managed to maintain standards of access and quality – but overall there is unacceptable variation. Young people and their parents have described "battles" to get access to CAMHS services, with only the most severely affected young people getting appointments; they also described the devastating impact that long waits for treatment can have.

Other recent pieces of research have highlighted concerns about the mental health of children and young people. In November MPs warned that the mental health of young people was “at risk in the digital age”, with the Commons health committee reporting that websites advocating anorexia and self-harm are posing a danger to the mental wellbeing of children and young people.

A NSPCC report said that in 2013/14 there had been an 18% increase in ChildLine counselling sessions regarding suicide since 2012/13.

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