Behind the Headlines

The scarcity of mental health services for children and young
people is a source of controversy that looks set to be revived in
the weeks leading up to publication of the Children at Risk green
paper. The green paper, likely to be a cross-departmental
government blueprint for the future of services for children in
need, is due out at the end of May. 

Charity YoungMinds, in its submission to the government’s green
paper team, says that “every child in need must get a service”. It
is critical of the current system which it says may be unable to
offer help because potential clients have “the wrong problem at the
wrong age”.  One of the main difficulties is access to services,
which could be made easier by offering them through primary health
care, the voluntary sector or one-stop shops. More outreach
facilities should be provided to overcome the perpetual problem of
missed appointments, YoungMinds says. “Someone has to go wherever
the young man is and, if acceptable, start to build a relationship
with him there, be it in the home, in the youth club or under a
bridge,” it says in the submission.   

Bill Badham, development officer, National Youth
“Victim or villain, at risk or a risk to others? What will be the
vision of children and young people in the green paper? It’s not
looking good, with IRT – identification, referral and tracking – no
doubt joining up punitive government policies that clamp down on
perceived problem behaviour and help only available through
controlled programmes. And, meanwhile, the mental health bill
threatens net-widening and increased powers of detention, while
still failing to address the specific needs of those under

Karen Squillino, primary prevention co-ordinator,
“I work with children who sometimes have clear mental health needs
and services are often difficult to access. Many of these children
are socially isolated, disengaged and fearful of mental health
services due to the labelling that can occur once they are
accessed. Cases are often closed before work has been undertaken
due to failure to attend appointments. Services should look at
developing a ‘doing with children’ philosophy as much of what is
out there at the moment is about ‘doing to’.” 

Phil Frampton, national chairperson, Care Leavers
“The various levels of government must recognise that they are a
major part of the problem, not just the solution. Children in care
being moved 50 times in 10 years, black pupils seven times more
likely to be excluded than white pupils, failure to assert the
rights of the child and failure to deal with child abuse and
bullying or to address mental health issues in school – these are
just a few areas where the government is blatantly adding to the
problems of children’s mental health.”   

Bob Hudson, principal research fellow, Nuffield
Institute for Health, University of Leeds
“Service responses for children’s mental health do not have a
distinguished history. Despite the influential template developed
by Health Advisory Service in 1997, few localities have a shared
approach to commissioning and providing. One of the first tests of
new approaches to children’s services – especially the creation of
children’s trusts – will be to address this long-standing
deficiency. Although the government is keen to allow localities to
devise their own models of children’s trusts, it may well be that
this should include an expectation that CAMHS will, at some early
point, be addressed.”   

Felicity Collier, chief executive, Baaf Adoption and
“The tragedy for many young people at risk is that mental
health services fail to prioritise their needs or to engage with
them effectively. This is too often because the professional
assessment is that either the family does not have the capacity to
support a treatment plan, or that the lack of a secure base for a
looked-after child will make the progress too difficult. The major
challenge for the green paper is how to deliver effective mental
health services to these children and give them priority access to

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