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Mental health services failing Disabled children

17 February 2022

More than 100,000 children have been discharged from mental health services before receiving any treatment, according to the Daily Telegraph which highlights new figures from the Children Commissioner’s office.

Children’s Mental Health Services 2020/21 shows that, although mental health spending on children’s mental health services has increased, the number of children experiencing mental distress has jumped sharply from 1 in 9 in 2017 to 1 in 6 in 2020/21.

The report warns it is likely that even though more children are experiencing mental health problems, fewer are being referred for help because of the disruption and impact of the Covid pandemic. It also points out that over a third of children who have been referred (37%) are still waiting for treatment.

Fazilet Hadi, Head of Policy at Disability Rights UK said: “These are stark and unwelcome findings. If children can’t get the support they need when they need it, their education and general development is put at risk; and there may be longer term health challenges.”

An analysis by the BBC and the Royal College of Psychiatrists of NHS Digital figures also suggests the demand for children’s mental health services isn’t being met. It says that over 400,000 under 18s were referred for specialist care for issues such as suicidal thoughts and self harm between April and October 2021.

In the same six month period in 2019 there were just over 230,000 referrals for under 18s.

Children’s Commissioner Rachel De Souza said that children’s mental health and well being was something “…we need to get to grips with.” She also said: “What they [children] are asking for is not rocket science: they want someone to talk to when they are worried or upset. They want easier access to support when problems are emerging so that they don’t start to build up.” 

The research comes as the President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists urged the Government to fund six new mental health hospitals as part of its commitment to improve NHS buildings. He argued that crumbling buildings, leaky roofs and faulty equipment are putting seriously mentally ill people at risk and hindering their chances of recovery. The Government has said it will build 48 new hospitals by 2030, although critics point out the majority of projects are refurbishments or new buildings for current hospitals.