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Government’s children’s mental health plans: a step forward, but we need a leap

Publication date: December 4, 2017

Today the Government launched a draft plan for improving children’s mental health services. UKCP sees this as a step forward, but these plans continue to fall short of what is needed.

It includes:

  • Incentives for every school to identify a Designated Senior Lead of Mental Health to oversee mental health and wellbeing.
  • Mental Health Support Teams to be put in place in at least 20 per cent of schools. These will be made up of additional trained staff, supervised by NHS specialists, to provide support in or near schools and colleges for children and young people with emerging and more moderate needs
  • A 28 day waiting time target for CAMHS will be piloted in certain ‘trailblazer’ areas at beginning of 2019

These will be carried out with at least £310 million of funding spread over three years.

While these changes are welcome, they do not constitute the step-change in aspiration and resourcing that is truly needed. Under current plans, by 2020/21 65 per cent of children in need of mental health services will still be denied access. Those who do access services will still experience unacceptably long waiting times. There will still be little in the way of monitoring quality or outcomes.

While positive, the plans do have potential flaws. Emphasising a 28 day waiting time target, in the absence of sufficient extra funding, may lead to cuts to service quality. Furthermore, the extra staff promised appear to be those with low levels of training, when in many cases properly trained psychotherapists are needed.

UKCP Chief Executive, Professor Sarah Niblock said: ‘These plans are a step forward, but we need a leap. While extra support is welcome, most children will still be denied the therapy they need.

 ‘The Government needs to recognise we are in a state of crisis. Huge numbers of children and young people go to bed every night in considerable mental distress. Any extra support helps, but we need a step change in ambition if we are really going to be able to tackle the scale of the problem our society faces.

‘There is already a trained workforce of therapists which could be tapped into.’