The threshold to access mental health support for children who have been abused is too high, social workers and other professionals have said.
A survey by the NSPCC of 1,256 professionals working with children found 96% felt there were not enough child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), and 98% said provision of other therapeutic services was insufficient in their area.
More than half said thresholds had caused problems getting help for children, and the same proportion said waiting times had been a barrier to getting support from local CAMHS teams. Cuts in available services were identified by 37% of professionals as another barrier to accessing mental health support for young people.
Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, said the views of professionals spoke “loud and clear”.
“The government and those that commission services urgently need to increase what is currently available to support this most vulnerable group of children. Getting help to these children earlier is vital and can prevent longer term damage to the lives of those who have survived the horror of abuse,” Wanless said.
The survey collected responses from social workers, nurses and doctors. Of professionals who had experience of referring children with mental health problems to services over the past five years, almost 80% said accessing these services had got harder.
Wanless added: “We know that children are often left alone to deal with the corrosive emotional and psychological consequences of appalling abuse and that all too often they face long waits for help with their trauma, or the services offered aren’t appropriate for children whose lives have been turn upside down by their experiences: this must change.”
A government spokesperson said: “We are investing £1.4 billion into young people’s mental health and are working with local areas to improve services in hospitals, schools and communities so young people get better quality mental health care as quickly as possible, a key part of which involves helping the victims of abuse.”