Not enough young people are getting the support they need

Our CEO James Kenrick looks at new data on the number of young people struggling to access child and adolescent mental health services

Today sees the publication of a report from the Education Policy Institute, Access to child and adolescent mental health services in 2019. The report reveals new statistics that will be depressingly familiar to those who work in the sector. Despite the government’s ambition to transform Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), 26% of referrals are still being rejected, and children in some part of the country are waiting as long as six months to get support.

The statistics in this report reflect the harrowing stories we hear from young people left waiting unacceptable lengths of time to get the support they need. Young people face challenges in all areas of their lives, from education and employment to finances, debt, sexual health and relationships, and a six month wait for help can make a critical difference to how these challenges impact on their wellbeing. It can be the difference between getting into university or not, getting their first job or not, meeting their rent payments or not.

Action is certainly needed to ensure young people receive timely mental health interventions, but young lives are more than just a diagnosis. Young people should have access support across the diverse issues they face from services rooted in their communities and responsive to their unique circumstances. As reports like this make clear, to meet these needs we need to look beyond clinical services that are already struggling to meet targets.

With commitments for increased NHS funding for mental health provision, local health systems have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to ensure that all young people have a place to turn. Our members already deliver a range of easy-to-access support to thousands of young people around the country, and are currently being held back by a lack of resources and funding despite having capacity to expand. At such a pivotal moment, it’s vital that policymakers and local service commissioners harness the potential of local charities and community organisations like these to build a transformational package of support for young people in every community.