A new report published by the Education Policy Institute (EPI) has found that more than 55,800 children in England who had been referred to treatment for their mental health were not accepted.

Figures show that in the last five years, the number of referrals to use children’s mental health services increased by 26%, but that as many as one in four children who received a referral were rejected last year, with the most common reason cited being that the child’s mental health conditions were “not serious enough” to meet the eligibility criteria. This was compounded by the lack of alternative services, and local authorities phasing out vital support services.

Waiting times were also shown to be a concern, and shown to be longer than the government standard of four weeks per its green paper on children’s mental health, with the average waiting time for a child to receive initial assessment being 34 days, and the time to treatment being 60 days. However, the longest time waited by a child was 188 days, with a significant discrepancy between the lengths of time to treatment by each provider.

Worryingly, the report also found that deficiencies in CAMHS data “hinder” progress, noting that many of the providers they submitted FOI requests to were unable to provide data, and that the privatisation of the services hinders their ability to collect information as independent providers are exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.

The chief executive of Young Minds, Emma Thomas, told the BBC: “We hear every day from young people who haven’t been able to get the help they need from Camhs.

“Crucially, we also need to address the gaps in youth and community services that could provide help early on, before young people require more specialist treatment.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson also told the BBC: “We are transforming mental health services for children and young people with an additional £1.4bn and are on track to ensure that 70,000 more children a year have specialist mental health care by 2020-21.

“We are improving access to mental health services through schools with a brand new dedicated workforce, as well as piloting a four-week waiting time standard in some areas, so we can better understand how to reduce waiting times.

“We are completely committed to achieving parity between physical and mental health as part of our long-term plan for the NHS, backed by an additional £20.5bn of funding per year by 2023-24.”

Image: Flickr/Rabiem22

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