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Mental Health Services in England - the not so shocking truth

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The Care Quality Commission have today published the phase one report  of their review of children and young people’s mental health services which ultimately reveals, as expected, that too many children and young people “have a poor experience of care and some are simply unable to access timely and appropriate support”.  

The report follows a range of measures set out by the Prime Minster in January 2017 to improve mental health support in England. This is the first phase of work and will lead to fieldwork being carried out in 10 areas of England to look at mental health services for children and young people.

The report confirms, what is all too real for many families, that there are extensive waiting times, a lack of person centred care, a lack of time for staff to provide specialist services and receive training and fragmented care due to a lack of joined up working.


Waiting times

As specialist education law solicitors we work with many parents who have been placed on waiting list after waiting list to access mental health support for their disabled child. The Education Policy Institute report that children may be waiting a long time to be assessed by CAMHS and then have to endure a further wait to actually receive treatment. By this time, their mental health has deteriorated to such an extent that they have reached crisis point. This is simply not acceptable and is putting young people’s lives at risk.

Recent figures received from Childline show that there has been an 87% increase in Childline counselling sessions with children and young people who are struggling to access local mental health services.

The CQC report also states that Public Health England estimates suggest that only 25% of children and young people who need treatment for a mental health problem are able to access it.


A lack of person-centred care

Children and young people have reported through the CQC review that they wish to have more input in their care and more choice as to how and where the support is delivered.

The report confirms that “most specialist CAMHS services are caring, meaning that they involve children and young people and treat them with compassion, kindness dignity and respect”. However, it confirms that there are “still services which are failing to provide person-centred care that meets the specific needs of children and young people”. 

It has also been clearly reported that the failures within the specialist services stem from a lack of assessment and poorly maintained or inappropriate facilities. This links into the staff having a lack of time to spend assessing each individual and really taking the time to get to know that person and build a relationship with them. 


Access to timely care and support

Sadly, it is becoming all too common for young people, once they have managed to access support, to be sent miles away from their family home in order to receive treatment. It is indeed a ‘postcode lottery’ as to what services are available locally and the eligibility criteria to access these services. Many services do not offer the specialist support which is becoming more and more necessary for young people.

The report confirms that “a review by the Council for Disabled Children found that there are no inpatient mental health beds suitable for children and young people with a learning disability in London, the south east and south west of England”.  This begs the question, what support is being offered to young people who require inpatient services in this huge geographical area? Are they being sent miles away from their family home or are they simply not receiving this support leading to a further detriment in mental health and well being.


Fragmented Care

The parents whom we work with often experience significant frustration at the lack of communication and joined up working between the organisations and agencies who are involved with their child’s care.

Mental health care is delivered by many organisations including the child’s school, GP, Local Authority, youth offending services, hospital and A&E departments, CAMHS and voluntary sector organisations. The CQC report states that “CQC inspections also found examples of poor collaboration between different agencies, such as one specialist inpatient CAMHS service that had “limited” working relationships with any other teams or services”.

Families who have a child who requires support for mental health difficulties are already going through an extremely emotional and stressful time. By the time they are able to access the specialist CAMHS service for this young person they are often at crisis point and the lack of communication between professionals, who are supposed to be helping the family and young person, simply adds to this stress and anxiety.

The report confirms what we already knew in essence that “there is a variation in children and young person’s overall experience of the mental health system, and too many children and young people struggle to access the right care at the right time”.

“The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health has described the system under pressure, leading to long waiting times, appointments being cancelled, and some children being unable to access timely and appropriate help”.

As specialist education law solicitors we see the frustration and sheer despair that families experience if their child is not provided with the mental health support they often so desperately require. All too often mental health is disregarded by Local Authorities who fail to consider the impact that this has on the child or young person’s ability to access education. If you wish to seek further advice please do not hesitate to contact the specialist education law team on 02920 291704.