Mental health referrals rise by quarter for children

New research has found that the number of referrals to child and adolescent mental health services in England has increased by 26 per cent over the past five years.

Access to children and young people’s mental health services – 2018, published by the Education Policy Institute, assesses the state of children’s mental health services in England, examining access to specialist services, waiting times for treatment, and provision for those children that are not able to receive treatment.

The report finds that, alongside the 26 per cent increase in referrals, as many as one in four children referred to specialist mental health services were rejected last year, with the charity estimating that there were at least 55,800 children not accepted into treatment in 2017/18. The most common reason for referrals being rejected remains that children’s mental health conditions were not serious enough to meet the eligibility criteria for treatment.

Furthermore, the Education Policy Institute found that most providers do not follow up with children who have been unable to access treatment and that many areas of the country lack sufficient alternative services for young people who have not been accepted for treatment.

Examining waiting times, the report reveals that many children still face unacceptably long waiting times, and there are great disparities across providers. In fact, the longest wait for treatment reported by mental health service providers in England ranges from 188 days, to just one day. Significantly, current waiting times are far longer than the government’s new standard of 4 weeks, set out in its green paper on children’s mental health.

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