Children and young people's mental health services “reaching tipping point”

A new report looks at the impact the pandemic has had on children and young people’s mental health and the services that support them.

26/08/21

Children and young people's mental health services “reaching tipping point”

A generation of children and young people risk not getting the mental health care they need, a new report has warned.

According to a new report from the Mental Health Network, many children and young people will be left without vital mental health support unless the Government goes further to invest fully in services where they are most needed.

Without this investment, the Network says there is a real risk that mental health problems will follow them into adulthood, with more serious and complex issues in years to come, pushing up both personal and financial costs.

The report adds that workforce shortages in key mental health roles need to be addressed, and that children and young people’s mental health must be made a priority for integrated care systems (ICSs) to avoid future problems.

Without full integration of mental health services, it says there is a serious risk of putting even more pressure on services that can ill-afford to take any more strain. It says ICSs can play a crucial role in addressing the fragmentation of services many people face and improve access to both early intervention and specialist mental health services to help prevent more serious problems from developing down the line.

The Mental Health Network, part of the NHS Confederation, says there is growing concern that the mental health system for children and young people in England is reaching a “tipping point”, as the COVID 19 crisis brought with it uncertainty and anxiety caused by the lockdowns, school closures, isolation from friends and peers, bereavement and loss, and extra stresses and pressures on families.

The pandemic has worsened existing challenges, including health inequalities, with potentially serious consequences, in particular for the mental health of children and young people from BME backgrounds, lower-income backgrounds, those who identify as LGBTQ+, and those with special educational needs or neurodevelopmental differences.

While confirmed cases of COVID-19 are stabilising currently in England, health leaders are concerned about increased transmission in the autumn as more offices reopen and as pupils return to school, and the additional toll this disruption and uncertainty could take on the mental health of children and teenagers.

The report identifies how demand for mental health support for children and young people across all services has already grown significantly since the pandemic, with the number of children and young people contacting mental health services rising by nearly a third in the last year.

In March 2020, there were 237,088 children and young people in contact with mental health services, compared to 305,802 in February 2021. In addition, at least 1.5 million children and young people may need new or additional mental health support as a result of the pandemic, according to modelling from the Centre for Mental Health.

In particular, demand for support for eating disorders has risen dramatically over the course of the of the pandemic. The number of young people receiving urgent treatment for eating disorders increased by 141% between the last three months of 2019/20 and the first three months of 2021/22.

The NHS Confederation is now calling for additional funding from the Government in the imminent Comprehensive Spending Review to tackle the growing demand among children and young people within the NHS and local authorities, as well as in schools and other educational settings.

In the last spending review, £79 million was set aside for 2021/22 to support the NHS to care for children and young people with mental health problems, as well as an additional £40 million announced in June and £17 million for mental health initiatives in schools. However, campaigners say that these short-term emergency cash injections need to be replaced with sustainable funding for the longer term given the levels of demand for mental health support they are seeing.

In addition, the NHS Confederation is calling for a stronger focus on prevention and early intervention services, including addressing the social factors affecting children and young people’s mental health, such as economic background and issues such as unstable home environments.

Sean Duggan, Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network, said a generation of children and young people requiring support for their mental health risk being failed because the NHS is not being adequately resourced to support them.

“While health leaders are grateful that investment from the Government has begun, as well as for the prioritisation children and young people’s mental health has been given, the continued toll of the pandemic has shown that it may not be enough to respond to the rising demand for their services. Funding must be both long-term and sustainable.

“We have seen outstanding examples from our members working together to support the mental wellbeing of their younger patients, through both preventative services and inpatient care, but nationally, it is clear we are now at a tipping point.

“Many young people are developing mental health problems as a direct result of the pandemic and with COVID-19 cases expected to rise in the autumn, this is a worrying position to be in.

Catherine Roche, Chief Executive of Place2Be, the children’s mental health charity said services are struggling to meet demand.

“We know that the proportion of children experiencing mental health problems has grown in recent years. Even before the pandemic, school leaders were telling us it was increasingly challenging to get child and adolescent mental health support when pupils needed it.

“With services struggling to meet increasing demand, it’s vital that we intervene early to prevent the escalation of mental health problems. Half of adults with lifetime mental ill health first experience symptoms by the age of 14. Our recent study in partnership with University of Exeter and University of Cambridge evidences that providing mental health support in schools has long-term benefit, as improvements in mental health were maintained over a two-year follow-up period.

“To prevent extra strain on CAMHS as more and more young people reach crisis point, we need a joined-up approach to mental health, with health services, community support services and schools coming together to get children and young people the help they deserve at the earliest stage.”

Paint on Face

Torbay Council

Service Manager and Principal SW – Learning Academy

Job of the week

Sign up for an informal interview for this role today

£47,982 - £51,399

Featured event

COMPASS

Conference

4 Oct 2021

Instant access 

Featured jobs

Luton Council

Family Safeguarding Social Worker

Torbay Council

Court Quality Assurance manager

SWT_SideAd1.png

Most popular articles today

Will Quince takes over as Minister for Children and Families

Will Quince takes over as Minister for Children and Families

“The boundaries of your responsibility”: Lessons for Living, by Dr Neil Thompson

“The boundaries of your responsibility”: Lessons for Living, by Dr Neil Thompson

New Government review investigates babies harmed by fathers and stepfathers

New Government review investigates babies harmed by fathers and stepfathers

Charity calls for new national care service for children and care experienced people

Charity calls for new national care service for children and care experienced people

Sponsored Content

What's new today:

Supporting social work students with additional needs during their placement