Welsh mental health services under fire from children’s commissioner

Mental health services for children and young people in Wales are
“wholly unacceptable” according to the children’s commissioner for
Wales Peter Clarke.

In his annual report, released last week, the commissioner charts
several crucial failings in services, including no children’s
inpatient beds in Wales, no adolescent forensic service, no eating
disorder beds, no emergency adolescent beds, and virtually no
service for children with learning difficulties.

Clarke also points out that there are fewer adolescent inpatient
beds per head in Wales than anywhere else in the UK.

The commissioner warns that, although the all-Wales strategy for
child and adolescent mental health services launched in September
2001 is imaginative, child-centred and welcomed by many
practitioners and commentators, no funding has been identified and
ringfenced by the Welsh assembly to implement it.

“The consequences are all too clear,” the report says. “I have been
approached directly by professionals and their associations, and by
individuals acting on behalf of young people. Their message is the
same. They speak of a service in crisis, with poor and patchy
provision, and a worrying drain of skilled and professional
workers. Those remaining talk of low morale.”

The commissioner warns that because there are no emergency
adolescent beds in Wales, some young people are admitted to adult
psychiatric wards. He describes the plight of Welsh children being
placed hundreds of miles away from their families and their country
as wholly unacceptable.

Clarke says that his office is aware of consultants with waiting
lists of well over 12 months, and of significant staff vacancies in
psychiatric and psychological services.

“The lack of appropriate and timely help to young people with
mental health problems can blight their entire lives,” he

The commissioner’s report was due to be debated by the assembly
this week.

– Annual report from www.wales.gov.uk/keypubdocuments/index.htm
under “past and current documents laid before the assembly”.

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