We Ask: “So What, if Anything will be Done About it?”
The Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield has published her fourth annual report on the state of children’s mental health services in England [Here].
Main findings (spanning the period up to the end of March 2020) include:
- 4% of children accessed mental health services in 2019/20.This represents 1 in 4 based on 2020 need estimates. In 2020, only 20% of children referred to services commenced treatment within a month
- In 2019/20, 538,564 children were referred for help; a 35% increase on 2018/19.However, in 2019/20, 391,940 children received treatment, representing only a 4% increase on those treated in the previous year
- Local CCG areas spend on average, less than 1% of overall budget on children’s mental health; some spend more but there is no consistency
- The roll-out of local area services for children’s mental health is governed by postcode lottery. Thus 70 local areas in England close 30% or more of their cases before children can access support; in Hertfordshire it is 48% of cases. Treatment waiting time length is variable as is the number of children referred for treatment and the spending levels of local areas.
Anne Longfield said that even prior to Covid-19, England was experiencing an ‘epidemic’ in children’s mental health problems:
‘Since the NHS study in July 2020 estimating one in six children in England have a probable mental health condition, we have had another long lockdown. Sadly, this will be causing even more damage to many children’s mental wellbeing and putting even greater strains on mental health services, potentially for years to come…….
‘The Government’s ‘building back better’ plans must include a rocket boost in funding for children’s mental health, to expand services and eliminate the postcode lottery. As an absolute minimum, all schools should be provided with an NHS-funded counsellor, either in school or online….
‘We have seen how the NHS has risen to the scale of the Covid crisis for adults. We owe children who are suffering the secondary consequences of the pandemic, a mental health service that provides the help and support they need.’
Helen Clark, Campaign Manager for the Child Mental Health Charter Campaign and Lead Author for the APPG on A Fit and Healthy Childhood commented:
‘I welcome the publication of this report, but there is no evidence that the Government is listening to the Children’s Commissioner.
She has not been included in any of the Covid National Press Conferences; there is no mention of a Covid Recovery Child Mental Health Strategy backed by ring-fenced funding; children’s mental health is absent from Ministerial speeches and Statements to the House and all that is offered in total is a very modest sum in the Comprehensive Spending Review and a small share of resources primarily intended for other purposes (as in the School Return Fund).
On 13th January 2021, the Government published a White Paper, prior to a reform of the 1983 Mental Health Act, scheduled for timetabling during the course of this parliament.
The White Paper as it stands, humanises provision surrounding containment and secure provision for adults and rather than providing a ‘roadmap’ for children’s mental health services it represents a ROADBLOCK to reform.
The state of children’s mental health services in 2020/21 is in crisis.
Write to your MP.
Ask them what they will DO to make that White Paper as good as it can be for every child.
We will be delighted to publish their names on this site in our roll of honour!
By Helen Clark: Campaign Manager for the Child Mental Health Charter Campaign and Lead Author for the APPG on A Fit and Healthy Childhood 28th January 2021