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Urgent Need for Improved Mental Health Services

In recent times, mental health awareness has become a topic discussed and debated in the mainstream media and is applicable more than ever in relation to young people throughout England and Wales who have special educational needs.

It is often the case that when a child or young person has a diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) for example, they have associated social, emotional and mental health needs which are either overlooked or simply not catered for. 

It is of paramount importance that both aspects are catered for, which signifies the need for an accessible and vastly improved mental health service to be available to assist families desperate for assistance and urgent help. The importance of this cannot be overstated.

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) throughout both England and Wales are often overwhelmed and under-resourced to deal with the volume of patients requiring care. Waiting times are unfit for purpose and it is clear that as a service, urgent reform is necessary. Parents seeking advice and assistance from service providers are commonly frustrated by the lack of person-centred care or indeed the ability to access such services in a timely manner. Children and young people with mental health difficulties can often require urgent intervention which is not realistically achievable within the parameters of the NHS framework and service-level agreements. 

There is a common perception that mental health services are now resource-led as opposed to needs-led with those experiencing difficulties being unable to obtain the care and support they require, potentially leading to tragic circumstances arising.

Services like CAMHS are routinely involved in the majority of cases but, are not a specialist service for ASD (or anything outside of the mental health domain). For complex children/young adults with ASD, for example, it is impossible to separate the features of the condition and that of the mental health issues, such as high levels of anxiety or sometimes self-harming/suicidal ideation. This therefore constitutes a distinct gap in the services available; if ever there was a need to develop such a framework urgently, this is the time.

Mental health difficulties are both health and educational needs; issues such as high levels of anxiety, low mood and depressive episodes for example have a negative impact on that child or young person’s ability to learn or function within a school/further education setting. On that basis, their education will be fundamentally impacted by the same as the needs of the child/young person should be looked at holistically and not just their academic attainment. Social, emotional, medical and behavioural issues must therefore be given due consideration by any Local Authority as part of the formal assessment process.

Early intervention is key for obvious reasons, but without the necessary expertise and accessibility of such a service, many more children and young people will fall through the cracks. Specialist ASD services integrated with psychiatric advice would be a far better solution to ensuring such young people are adequately cared for as opposed to simply discharging them as a result of them ‘not meeting the relevant criteria’.

If you would like advice as to obtaining specialist support for your child, please do not hesitate to contact our specialist team on 0333 202 7175 or