On July 4th 2017 the Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, published a report on vulnerable children in England. The findings of this report prompted Longfield to call the number of vulnerable children found in England “unacceptably high”.
The report focused on four different categories to assess factors that led or contributed to a child living in vulnerable circumstances:
- Children directly supported or accommodated (or previously accommodated) by the state
- Children and young people whose actions put their futures at risk
- Children with health-related vulnerabilities
- Children with family-related vulnerabilities
They calculated that 580,000 children are receiving some form of care or support from the state, 670,000 whose families were seen as vulnerable, 370,000 whose actions put them at risk and 2.3 million children who suffered from health-related vulnerabilities. While each category depicted a bleak picture, a figure that will concern ACP members is that 805,950 children within category 3 suffered from mental health disorders.
While it was difficult for the team of experts to account for every vulnerable child in England, since some children fell under more than one category and due to a lack of records, the figures obtained so far are shockingly high.
Shadow children’s minister Emma Lewell-Buck said to the Guardian that the report “should serve as a wake-up call to this government” and they should “be taking action now to support every child and ensure that they are safe, secure, and have a roof over their head.” It is clear that specialists are needed to manage the level of complexity and distress many children and young people are facing. As recently as May 2017, the ACP joined forces with twenty leading mental health organisations in calling for better access to psychological therapies in the current climate of repeated cuts to mental health services.
The children’s minister, Robert Goodwill insisted that the government was taking action through changes to children’s social care, improved mental health care and better protections for victims of domestic violence and abuse, but the ACP is concerned that it is becoming more difficult for children, young people and their families to gain access to well trained specialists within NHS child mental health services, in order to receive the most appropriate mental health treatment.