Access to child and adolescent mental health services in 2019

This new report from UK think tank Education Policy Institute looks at access to specialist mental health services for children.

With most mental health problems starting at an early age, this report determines the scope to which children have access to specialist mental health services, how long they expect to wait for treatment, and its delivery. The research employs data from freedom of information (FOI) requests made to mental health providers and local authorities over 2019, including referrals made relating to conditions such as eating disorders, self-harm or abuse. This data is not published by the NHS. Despite significant government investment made towards improving standards and accessibility to mental health services, many in England are often insufficient. Rejection rates to specialist children’s mental health services remain considerably high (approximately 132,700 children a year), with Northern and Eastern regions of England displaying the highest rejection rates. For those referrals that are accepted, the report finds that children and young people can be expected to wait up to two months to begin specialist treatment, with some having waiting times of six months. The study also finds that local provision for children from more vulnerable and marginalised groups is often patchy and lacks accountability. Similarly, the transition of young people to adult mental health services is identified as a problem within this report, with fewer than one in five areas in England offering a specific service or having dedicated staff members to support young people transitioning to adult mental health services. To improve academic attainment and the overall wellbeing of more vulnerable children, the government needs to offer a more holistic programme of support.

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