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Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services

Volume 638: debated on Tuesday 20 March 2018

10. What estimate he has made of the number of young people who have not had access to child and adolescent mental health services after a referral in the last 12 months. (904471)

22. What estimate he has made of the number of young people who have not had access to child and adolescent mental health services after a referral in the last 12 months. (904483)

We estimate that of the approximately 460,000 referrals made to children and young people’s NHS mental health services per year, 200,000 children receive treatment and many are appropriately signposted to other help. Treatment within the NHS is determined by clinical need and it is vital for all to remember that specialist services are not always appropriate for those referred. That said, we are committed to treating 70,000 more children and young people each year by 2020-21.

Around one in 10 children and young people in Redcar and Cleveland has a mental health disorder—a proportion that is higher than for the rest of the north-east and higher than for England. Local services are becoming overwhelmed. Last year, Redcar charity The Link, which provides mental health support for children, experienced an increase in demand of 40%. It has a waiting list of over 140 children and planned waits of 11 weeks, but the charity is still having to make redundancies and staff have had their hours cut due to the funding crisis. Will the Minister commit to increasing and ring-fencing spending for child and adolescent mental health, and will she ensure that the role of third sector charities in delivery of such services is preserved?

Having looked at the performance of the hon. Lady’s local trust, I can say that it is rising to the challenge extremely well, but that brings with it challenges. We are increasing the funding available for children and young people’s mental health services. We are relying on local clinical commissioning groups to purchase those services, but I can tell the hon. Lady that NHS England will be keeping this area under scrutiny, to ensure that we are delivering that help to the frontline.

Does the Minister accept that cuts to mental health services mean that too many young people who have suffered trauma are not getting the support that they desperately need? Has she measured the impact of that on young people, and looked, in particular, at any links to the tragic incidents of youth violence that we are now seeing daily?

I do not accept the allegation that there have been cuts. We have increased expenditure by 20%. We recognise that we need to invest significantly more in improving children and young people’s mental health, and that is exactly what we will be doing.

Mental health problems clearly have a wider societal cost. Does the Minister agree that treating mental health issues in children benefits not only the child, but the future of our society as a whole?

I could not have put it better myself, and this is exactly why we have brought forward the proposals in the Green Paper. We recognise that early intervention is the best way of protecting people’s mental health, so we will be encouraging all schools to appoint a designated mental health lead. We will be rolling out mental health support teams to support schools and we will be trialling a four-week waiting time standard. This will lead to a material improvement in children’s mental health.

The Care Quality Commission has reported that young people are waiting up to 18 months to receive vital treatment. The Royal College of Psychiatrists says that some health trusts are spending less than £10 per child on mental health services and that spending today is less than it was in 2012. So will the Minister tell us exactly what she is doing to fix what many health professionals say is a broken child and adolescent mental health services system?

I welcome the hon. Lady to her place on the Front Bench. I believe this is the first time we have had exchanges, and I am sure it will not be the last. We invested an additional £100 million last year. We know that more than half of providers have an average waiting time of fewer than 12 weeks and 4% of providers have a waiting time of fewer than four weeks. She is right in that six trusts are outliers and they are receiving significant attention from NHS England. We are having targeted work with them to address what might be the issues there. As I said earlier, as part of the Green Paper we will be trialling a four-week waiting time standard, and we are determined to achieve improvement in this area.