Posted: 16 June 2015

We need to transform children’s mental health services

Child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) have reached a tipping point: mental health services for young people have come under severe pressure from funding cuts at a time that more young people than ever need support. NHS England, a Government-led taskforce and a parliamentary inquiry have recognised that the system needs major improvements.

Today we’re publishing Priorities for improving children’s mental health services, which highlights the key issues preventing young people with emotional and mental health issues from accessing help and recovering sooner.

We’ve also published details of how funding for youth mental health services have changed in different areas of England over the last few years. Overall, funding between 2010 and 2013 fell by £79m in real terms using 2015-16 inflation rates.

We're calling on the Government to keep children and young people’s mental health high on the agenda.

Delivering services that improve outcomes

Through our services we support some of the most vulnerable young people who face complex issues in their lives, including neglect and abuse, domestic violence or sexual exploitation. Often these children live with mental health issues.

But far too many of these vulnerable young people are not being recognised or getting support to deal with those needs, as the system does not allow easy and timely access to mental health help.

Our briefing outlines our key concerns and sets out the changes we would like to see in mental health support for adolescents in the following key areas:

  • Improving and investing in early intervention and prevention so that young people’s symptoms don’t escalate
  • Better access and support for vulnerable young people including vulnerable 16- and 17-year-olds
  • Flexible transitioning between services that is based on need rather than on age
  • Addressing  the links between mental health and child poverty
  • Better commissioning and funding of CAMHS services to guarantee the availability of service, particularly specialist services 

Fulfilling pre-election promises

Following on from the Conservative party’s victory in this year’s general election, the Government is in the process of developing its agenda for this Parliament.

We believe that children and young people’s mental health must be a top priority and the Government should make sure that its pre-election promises as part of the coalition government become post-election policies that truly transform CAMHS and improve young people’s future.

The Government’s recent announcement of £1.25bn of funding (£250m a year for the next five years) for CAMHS in this year’s budget is a welcome and much needed investment that will begin to address the barriers that prevent young people accessing the support they need. But it is vital that this funding is fully ring-fenced to make sure local areas can invest it in early intervention and specialist services, including targeted support for vulnerable older teenagers and victims of child sexual exploitation.

The Government’s announced £1.25bn for CAMHS this year, which is welcome - it is vital this funding is ring-fenced

And the Children and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Taskforce’s final report, Future in Mind (PDF), gives a much needed focus to children’s mental health and outlines the need for the 'complete overhaul' of CAMHS services to prevent vulnerable young people from slipping through the net.

The new Government should continue to fund and prioritise mental health services and put in place standards to promote access and recovery for young people and to achieve parity between mental and physical health services. 

Find out how much primary care trusts were spending in your region

Our map shows how much primary care trusts and clinical commissioning groups in each region in England spent on child and adolescent mental health disorders between 2010 and 2013.

Note: Our map shows NHS programme budgeting expenditure by primary care trusts (PCTs) from the financial years beginning 2010, 2011 and 2012. We have adjusted the aggregate total for each year to reflect the most recent inflation rate of 0.9%. Regional totals were calculated by totalling expenditure by each PCT and clinical commissioning group operating in each region. Data on NHS programme budgeting can be accessed on the NHS website.

By Kadra Abdinasir - Policy team