Child and adolescent mental health services can only improve through joint leadership between health and social care at all levels including central government.
That was the message from Jo Davidson, chair of the independent review of Camhs commissioned by the Department of Health and Department for Children, Schools and Families, whose interim report was published last week.
Joint commissioning between primary care trusts and councils is “underdeveloped”, according to the report, and the respective responsibilities of the DH and DCSF, which lead jointly on Camhs, need to be clarified.
Looking ahead to the review’s final report this autumn, Davidson said she would urge the two departments to become a model for local areas in joint working.
“Whether that responsibility is single or joint it needs to be clearly delineated on a national level and all the way down to local level,” she added.
Stronger leadership would be essential to reduce the “unacceptable variations and gaps” in the quality and accessibility of services, Davidson said.
Davidson, director of children’s services at Gloucestershire Council, said that joint strategic needs assessments of communities by primary care trusts and councils must “cover mental health and physical health equally”.
When the final report is published in the autumn, one of the recommendations will include initial training in child development for “the full children’s workforce”, including teachers, GPs, and youth workers.
Support for innovation
John Simmonds, director of policy, research and development at the British Association for Adoption and Fostering, supported the report’s call for greater innovation locally.
He said more community-based settings for counselling and other services would help to lessen the stigma of using mental health services.
“Receiving mental health services in a school or leisure centre is much more acceptable than entering a building that has ‘mental health’ labelled on the outside,” he said.