Third of NHS children's mental health services 'face cuts or closure'

Between 2010 and 2015, spending on children’s mental health services fell by nearly £50m – more than six per cent in real terms

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The Independent Online

A third of children’s mental health workers say their service is facing cuts or closure, a new survey has revealed.

Research carried out by four major medical organisations highlighted the “extremely concerning” state of mental health services for children and young people.

Of the more than 3,000 NHS counsellors, therapists and psychoanalysts who took part in the survey, 84 per cent said it has become more difficult for children to access the help they need, with children now required to have more severe levels of illness in order to get help.

More than two thirds – 67 per cent – warned waiting times had increased over the last five years and 33 per cent said their workplace was facing downsizing or closure.

Theresa May has promised to rectify the “injustice” faced by people with mental illness by fighting workplace discrimination and making sure mental health conditions are treated with as much seriousness as physical complaints.

However, the Conservative manifesto does not pledge any extra funding for mental health services – despite doctors and campaigners warning services for children are in crisis.

The survey was carried out by the Association of Child Psychotherapists (ACP), British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP), British Psychoanalytic Council (BPC) and UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP).

“These results are extremely concerning,” said ACP chair Heather Stewart.

“It is important not to lose sight of the really good work that most child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) clinicians are doing to help children and young people with a number of complex mental health needs at a time when resources are being cut.

“We need to ensure that these services are well supported in order to provide the best treatment in a timely manner.”

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Martin Pollecoff, chair of UKCP, added: “Children’s mental health services on the NHS are in crisis. Left untreated, childhood mental health issues can last a lifetime. Without a cash injection now, the impact on the nation’s mental health could be felt for decades to come.”

Between 2010 and 2015, NHS spending on children’s mental health services fell by nearly £50m, or more than six per cent in real terms, according to official figures.

The NHS said last year an extra £1bn a year should be invested in mental health services by 2021, but it was recently revealed that spending on mental health was being cut in five regions of England.

An extra £25m was also allocated to NHS organisations to improve mental health services for children and young people in September.

But campaigners say funding provided to local authorities is not ringfenced, so is being spent elsewhere and “isn’t reaching people on the ground,” Natasha Devon, the Government’s former mental health tsar, told The Independent.

“In terms of cuts, it’s giving with one hand and taking with the other,” she said. “Investment is being put into training school teachers in mental health first aid; but that teaches you early symptom spotting and referral, and if there’s nowhere to refer to, it’s totally futile.”

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