The director of a Catholic mental health project has insisted that children’s mental health needs should be tended to immediately, as he branded delays of up to eight weeks “unacceptable”.
The criticism comes after the Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, warned that a “chasm” exists between the mental health care youngsters need and what is available.
The Children’s Commissioner’s annual report on mental health found that an additional 53,000 youngsters started mental health treatment in 2018/19, but that a ‘postcode lottery’ exists over whether some receive treatment at all, and how long they wait. On average, youngsters wait 53 days to start treatment.
Ben Bano, director of Welcome Me as I Am, which promotes mental health awareness in parish communities, said this delay was “unacceptable” and insisted that a system urgently needs to be put in place in order to provide children with immediate care.
“The delays of up to eight weeks in some parts of the country before receiving help are unacceptable,” Mr Bano told The Catholic Universe.
“When children have a mental health crisis their needs are often immmediate and a system needs to be in place which recognises this. More emphasis needs to be placed on rapid response services to address mental health crises in children and adolescents at an early stage.”
Waiting times are shorter for eating disorders, where a target has been introduced, but overall waiting times for mental health services vary widely by area, it says.
While 11 clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) had average waiting times of less than four weeks, 97 had average waiting times of more than eight weeks, and a further 43 CCGs were found to have average waiting times of more than 10 weeks.
England is still a decade away from offering a decent service to the nation’s children, according to Ms Longfield.
Her report welcomes extra funding for children’s mental health but significantly more is spent on supporting adults on a like-for-like basis.
The NHS spends, on average, £225 on mental health care for adults, compared to £92 for every child, the report says.
Picture: Picture posed by model of a teenage girl showing signs of mental health issues. (Gareth Fuller/PA).