Real-terms funding cut to children’s mental health services revealed

Figures released to parliament show NHS funding for CAMHS services fell by more than 6% in real-terms over four years

NHS sign
Picture: Rex Features/Phaney

NHS funding for children’s mental health services dropped by more than 6% in real-terms over four years, official figures show.

Data released by NHS England in response to a parliamentary question shows that spending on the services fell by the equivalent of £50m between 2009-10 and 2012-13 once inflation is factored in.

The figures show that in 2009-10, the NHS invested the equivalent of £766m (in 2013-14 prices) in children’s mental health services. By 2012-13, this investment had fallen to the equivalent of £717m, a drop of 6.4%.

A government taskforce is currently reviewing children’s mental health services and ministers have committed to £7m in extra funding for psychiatric beds for children, following evidence of significant strain on inpatient units.

Last year, investigations by Community Care and BBC News revealed how problems accessing beds for young people in crisis had led to acutely unwell children being admitted to adult mental health units or sent hundreds of miles for care.

The cuts come on top of evidence of reductions in local authority spending on children’s mental health services. Research by the charity YoungMinds found that more than half of the councils in England had reduced their funding for the services between 2010-11 and 2014-15.

Commenting on the figures released to parliament, YoungMinds chief executive Sarah Brennan, said: “These are deeply worrying figures. Children and young people’s mental health services have been chronically underfunded for decades and the current cuts to their funding have just added to the crisis that many local services face.

“YoungMinds has welcomed many of the government’s recent commitments for children and young people’s mental health but it is deeply frustrating, that on the ground where services are being delivered, that we keep seeing resources for helping and supporting some of the most vulnerable children being scaled back.”

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