ACP member responds to Guardian report about the need for better child mental health services

ACP registered child and adolescent psychotherapist and co-founder/former director of Young Minds, Peter Wilsonresponds to report printed in the Guardian about inadequate mental health services for children and young people. 

Yet another report pleading the case for better child mental health services. The experts of the Care Quality Commission expressed “surprise to find that accessing care took so long”. I was a co-founder of YoungMinds, the national children’s mental health charity, in the early 1990s. Since then, I have taken part in or witnessed numerous reports and reviews published by all manner of concerned organisations. Their findings have consistently been the same: high prevalence of child mental disorders (approximately 10% of the child population under 15 in UK) set alongside grossly underfunded specialist services. In my experience, the situation has got worse in the last 10 years.

The problem is not only long waiting lists, says Wilson. Much more serious is the lack of qualified professionals to provide the necessary treatment following assessment. Commissioners of services, driven by government demands to cut costs, have gone about their business blindly and without any understanding of what it takes to provide a good service.

He also highlights how previously well-functioning services have been dismantled or deformed under what is deceptively called the “transformation” of service delivery and highly trained senior child and adolescent mental health professionals have been downgraded and submerged beneath a growth of needless bureaucracy. He adds that CBT has been the favoured treatment because it is supposed to be cheap, despite inconclusive evidence for its effectiveness, most particularly for the more disturbed children and their families.

He also syas that recent increased government funding for child mental health services has not been ringfenced; adult services have benefited more. The destruction of specialist child and adolescent services is a national scandal and no responsible person should be surprised to hear about it any more.

ACP registered child and adolescent psychotherapists are highly trained specialists and work with some of the most complex and enduring mental health problems in children and young people. Many are reporting that the role of specialists in mental health teams is being undermined and services are generally under resourced. Another ACP spokesperson said:

This can only lead to further distress, in that treatments needed for the most unwell and disturbed children and young people, are simply no longer available in some clinics and in others, they are becoming harder to access.