Cuts to children and young people’s mental health services has led to a national crisis in service provision and could lead to "tragic consequences", a charity has warned.
After finding that 74 out of 96 (77%) NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) have frozen or cut their Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) budgets between 2014/2015 and 2013/2014, YoungMinds has called for NHS England to instruct CCGs to immediately prioritise early intervention and prevention of children and young people’s mental health.
Sarah Brennan, chief executive of YoungMinds, said: "Children and young people’s mental health services have been chronically underfunded for decades. The latest round of cuts will add to the devastation of local services and compound the struggles of children and young people and their families.
"Whilst the Government has prioritised children and young people’s mental health, spending in local areas, where lives are directly affected, does not reflect this – so now we are seeing services in crisis.
"If the Government wants to see its Mental Health Strategy delivered on the ground it must urgently ensure that appropriate levels of resources are given locally and nationally to children and young people’s mental health."
Mental health disadvantaged in local spending plans
Having conducted a Freedom of Information request on every CCG and every ‘upper tier’ local authority in England for their CAMHS for 2010/2011 to 2014/2015, YoungMinds found that:
• 60% of local authorities in England have cut or frozen their CAMHS budgets since 2010/2011
• 55% of local authorities in England that supplied data have cut, frozen or increased below inflation their budgets between 2013/2014 and 2014/2015
• 77% of CCGs have frozen or cut their CAMHS budgets between 2014/2015 and 2013/2014.
In response to the findings, Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb said: "It’s vital that children with mental health problems get support at the right time. YoungMinds is doing valuable work to highlight a crucial issue – that mental health is often disadvantaged in local spending plans. We’ve set out plans to improve care for young people and I would urge everyone to put pressure on local commissioners to make sure children’s mental health gets its fair share."
The report highlighted that the biggest cut in CAMHS budget came from Birmingham City Council who have gone from £2.314 million in 2011 to just £125,000 projected this year – a drop of 94.6%. Elsewhere, the biggest cut in CAMHS budget among CCGs came from NHS Thurrock at 13.41% while the biggest increase was NHS Central Manchester at 31.14%
Andy Bell, deputy chief executive of the Centre for Mental Health, added: "These figures present a disturbing picture of disinvestment in essential services to support children’s mental health across England. This year more CCGs than local authorities have cut or frozen their children’s mental health spending despite the much greater financial pressures on local councils.
"Three-quarters of children with emotional and behavioural problems get no specialist help or support. Cutting early intervention services is a false economy that will leave children at risk of long-term mental and physical health problems and poorer life chances.
"We need to invest now in children’s mental health by building comprehensive child and adolescent mental health services: preventing problems where possible, intervening early when children and their parents ask for help, and offering engaging and effective treatment and support to young people when they need it."