Mental health services for children and young people are at
crisis point, according to an exclusive survey of social care
professionals working with children and families,
writes Rachel Downey.
The survey of 1,500 care professionals was released this week at
the launch of ‘Changing Minds’, Community Care’s major
campaign to improve mental health care services for children and
It finds that almost four fifths of those surveyed said existing
services were in crisis, with over 94 per cent stating that
services were hard for parents to access and 90 per cent stating
that there was insufficient information about services for both
parents and young people with mental health problems. 97 per cent
said services were under-resourced.
Almost a third of the care professionals who referred children
to specialist treatment services said they had to wait a month
before a place became available. A fifth of the young people
referred to specialist services were turned down for a service, and
two-thirds of these did not access any alternative services, such
While services are difficult to access, according to our sample
demand is growing:
– Two thirds of social care professionals working with children
and families said the number of children with moderate mental
health problems had increased over the last five years.
– One third stated that the number with severe problems had
increased over the same period.
– Four out of five professionals believed the number of children
with emotional problems had increased in the past five years, and
83 per cent thought there were now more children with behavioural
Over four-fifths of professionals said poor parenting, or
parents’ inability to cope, was the root of the increase in
hyperactivity disorders and emotional and behavioural problems
among young people, while more than two-thirds blamed parental drug
and alcohol misuse.
Family breakdown and the lack of early intervention programmes
for young children were also deemed to be key causes of the mental
health problems in young people.
Two-thirds of social care professionals surveyed felt that
health professionals were under-diagnosing mental health problems
in children and young people. Nearly four-fifths attributed this
reluctance to the lack of services available. Almost nine out of 10
said untreated mental health problems in children and young people
could lead to youth offending.
To tackle the problem, more than three quarters of our survey
respondents proposed a national strategy to cover all mental health
services for children and young people, and a similar number said
ministers should increase the amount of money allocated for
Just under four fifths said the government should develop
specific community-based services for adolescents.
90 per cent said more specialist child mental health social
workers were needed,
and over 85 per cent said more therapeutic services for abused
children would prevent their mental health problems.
The sample also wanted an increase in early intervention and
diagnosis programmes; improved training, and increased support for
families of children with mental health problems.
The survey was conducted by NSN Research.