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CAHMS neurodevelopmental assessment crisis

Alarmingly, a recent study by The House Magazine highlights that in 2022, children in the UK waited an average of 16 months for an ADHD or autism screening. The longest average wait in the UK was reported in Belfast, with children waiting 5 years for just an initial appointment. Coventry and Warwickshire had the worst record in England, with an average wait of 142 weeks for all neuro first appointments. The longest overall wait was recorded as 7 years. This is in stark contrast to the NICE guidance for autism and mental health services, which stipulates that there should be no more than 13 weeks between being referred and first being seen. 

The NHS Autism Statistics January to December 2022 recorded a 40% increase in the number of people waiting for an autism assessment in one year. Unfortunately, the increasing numbers of referrals have not been met with the same increase in funding, resulting in unprecedented waiting lists and times. Meanwhile, thousands of children and young people are left without access to the support that they desperately require.

The knock-on effects of an untimely diagnosis are further explored within the article, to include mental illness, family breakdowns, deprivation, criminality and increased risks of suicide. It is reported that children with suspected neurodevelopmental conditions were pushed to the back of the queue, whilst the most critical cases had to be prioritised by an overwhelmed service. However, as noted, whilst a child is forced to wait and is left without the additional support they require, the subsequent effects can spiral. A spokesperson for the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy highlights that “there is a huge chasm, the missing middle, where young people are really struggling and need urgent, structured support, which just isn’t happening”. 

If your child is currently on one of these waiting lists – or is in ‘the missing middle’ – and you have concerns that their special educational needs are not being met, please contact our specialist education lawyers today. Whether or not your child has received an official diagnosis, they could still be entitled to additional support by way of an Education, Health and Care Plan (‘EHCP’). A formal diagnosis is not a legal requirement. 

Whether you would like assistance in obtaining an EHCP, or you wish to amend an existing EHCP to obtain more specialist support, HCB Solicitors are here to help. Education law can be complex and we understand the difficulties that parents can face in attempting to get extra support for their children. Our special education solicitors can offer their extensive experience to guide families throughout the EHCP process and achieve the outcome they deserve. 

If you would like to discuss your matter with one of our specialist education legal team, please contact us on 0333 202 7175 or


For further information about the above mentioned study, please see here: