Children’s mental health services require “complete overhaul” say council leaders

Children’s mental health services require “complete overhaul” say council leaders

The LGA (Local Government Association) has raised concern over children’s mental health services in England and Wales, stating that “stretched budgets” and “fragmented” systems are causing children and young people in need of help to fall through the net.

Representing 370 councils across England and Wales, the LGA is urging government to “provide adequate funding and resources to ensure early diagnosis for children”.

According to mental health charity, YoungMinds, one in 10 children aged five to 16-years are suffering from a diagnosable mental health disorder, and over 8,000 children under 10-years-old are currently suffering from severe depression. Yet research by the Centre for Economic Performance’sMental Health Policy Group in 2012  found that many children struggled to access treatment due to their illness being deemed non severe.

Chairman of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, Cllr David Simmonds, said: “Councils have worked hard to protect the many services they provide for vulnerable children, but in the face of 40 per cent cuts to local government, this has become increasingly challenging. Local authorities need the resourcing and flexibility to be able to invest in prevention and universal services in order to tackle mental health problems.”

Not only concerned with budget cuts affecting services, the LGA found that “complex systems” made it difficult for children to access the help they need. Simmonds said: “We are pleased that the Government and the NHS has recognised local government’s call that more must be done to tackle the challenges faced each day by children, young people and their mums and dads who need access [to] mental health support by introducing a taskforce to try and join up services. We are keen to work together on the details of how this can be done.”

Commenting on the LGA’s statement, chief executive of Young Minds, Sarah Brennan said: “Every day we hear from parents, through YoungMinds Parents’ Helpline, desperate for help for their child. They either cannot access services or they are stuck for months on a waiting list. Clinicians tell us that their services are at breaking point. As a result they are forced to increase thresholds, which means only the children with the most severe illness receive care.”

The LGA is calling for “better integration of children and adults mental health services” so that “practitioners and commissioners are working more closely together” to provide a more fluid system and allow more children and young people to easily access help.