Thousands of teenagers in England are being denied access to free mental health care because of local authority funding cuts, charity YoungMinds has claimed.
A Freedom of Information request sent by YoungMinds received 51 responses with 34 local authorities saying that they had cut their Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) budgets since 2010. One council reported a 76% reduction in its CAMHS budget.
Local authorities fund educational psychologists, parenting programmes and some specialist social workers through their CAHMS budgets. They may also fund, or jointly fund targeted mental health in schools services and voluntary sector support – for instance some youth counselling services, child protection/safeguarding teams and looked after children services.
YoungMinds’ chief executive, Sarah Brennan, said: "Local authorities who are supporting early intervention services must realise the vital role they have to play in supporting young people’s mental health.
"We have welcomed the Government’s spending on children and young people’s talking therapies but the strategy has to go beyond the actions of the Department of Health.
"Early intervention is vital in order to identify problems quickly before they worsen and before referrals for more specialist services are needed. As well as reducing the suffering that young people may be experiencing intervening early also reduces the need for more expensive forms of treatment when problems become more serious and entrenched."
Although NHS funding has remained steady, it's claimed the cuts in funding from local authorities means services such as drop-in counselling and advice lines are losing out.
Central Government cuts have put pressure on local authority budgets in England since 2010, with many being forced to make major savings.
YoungMinds is calling for local authorities to ensure that local services work together to jointly commission and deliver services to ensure they make the most of the resources they have.
The charity adds that prioritising a strategic approach to early intervention and tier 2 services will reduce expensive, intensive services when young people’s mental health problems become more serious and entrenched as they will inevitably do if early intervention services are not effectively delivered.
A Department of Health spokesman responded to the findings being unveiled on the BBC by saying that they have spent more than £50 milliion over the past four years on talking therapies and put pressure on local NHS departments to make sure they deliver services.