A report by the Education Policy Institute (EPI) has found that there has been a stark increase in the number of referrals to children’s mental health services in England. The rise of 26% has happened over the last five years, however it shows that nearly one in four of those children were rejected.
It is reported that the reasons for these children not being accepted have been because their condition wasn’t regarded as serious enough to meet the eligibility criteria, despite experiencing abuse or presenting evidence of self-harm.
Those who are accepted for vital mental health treatment then face a long waiting list. The government’s target is of four weeks, but many children in London are waiting over two months to be seen.
Mental health problems, if left unaddressed for long periods of time or if completely undetected, can become infinitely worse. Long delays in the treatment time could have a truly detrimental effect on the lives of many children.
The author of the report, Whitney Crenna-Jennings commented on the “significant postcode lottery” in the acceptance of referrals, with the longest delay reported as 188 days.
Anna Cole of the Association of School and College Leaders told the Guardian: “Overwhelmingly, providers reported no or limited follow-up after a referral was deemed inappropriate – only a minority contacted other services deemed more appropriate and a small minority checked whether the young person had accessed other support,” the report found.
“The fact that self-harm is not always sufficient to trigger access to specialist services clearly signals that wider preventive services are needed.”
The data for the report was collected through a series of FOI requests to CAMHS and local authorities. It paints a bleak picture of the landscape for children’s mental health services.