The ACP's CEO says that young people with serious mental health problems will be harmed by flawed government plans for children's mental health

In the Guardian and Observer this weekend, the ACP challenges plans laid out in a recent green paper on children and young people's mental health. The ACP's Chief Executive, Dr Nick Waggett, argues that young people with the most serious mental health problems will be harmed by flawed government plans to boost services in schools for troubled children.

The ACP, whose members work with children in NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) services accross the country, is concerned that under-18s who self-harm or are at risk of suicide are among those with complex conditions who could lose out on vital help because of proposals outlined in the green paper, aimed at tackling the crisis in young people’s mental health.

It criticised the plans as “inadequate”, based on “false assumptions” and likely to produce a number of “adverse consequences and failures”. Members have real concerns that hard-pressed NHS child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) will struggle even more to keep up with a fast-rising demand for care if they are given the job of supervising the new mental health support teams in schools envisaged in the green paper. Understaffing means that many children already wait too long to start receiving CAMHS care.

Our key concern is that the already stretched resources in child mental health will be used to support new services in schools instead of, rather than as well as, the specialist NHS services that are required for the most vulnerable and ill children,” said Dr Waggett. “Specialist clinicians and services are already being downgraded and we fear the green paper will accelerate this so that we end up with a very limited service in schools with no backup from more qualified and experienced colleagues in the NHS."

In a response to the government’s consultation on the green paper, the ACP, which represents child psychotherapists working in CAMHS and community services accross the UK, warns that the plans “risk causing harm to the groups identified as being most in need, as well as being ineffective”, and that they will “instigate changes that worsen rather than ameliorate” the existing inadequacy of CAMHS care.

Tom Madders, campaigns director at the charity Young Minds, said he shared the ACP’s concerns and backed the call for much greater investment, especially as only one in four young people who are struggling mentally receive any help from the NHS.

We welcome the proposals to ensure that there is specialist support in schools, but this initiative will require the support of a mental health system that’s already at breaking point. That’s why it’s important that there is increased and sustained funding for CAMHS.”

It is because of the ACP's concerns, which Nick Waggett outlines so expertly, that it has launched its Treat them Right Campaign, which is campaigning to ensure that the proper treatment is available for children at the right time and in the right place.

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