At the start of Mental Health Week, leading children’s charity NSPCC has uncovered data that shows the extent of the challenge for young people in need of specialist mental health services.
Sarah Hannafin, senior policy advisor on mental health and well-being for school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “This information underlines everything NAHT is saying about specialist mental health services.
“Schools in most LAs can refer pupils to CAMHS if they have concerns. Parents can also take their child to a GP who can also refer pupils to specialist mental health services. Both routes are available in most areas and this has always been the case, so it is not ‘new’ that schools are making referrals.
“What the data shows is that more pupils are being referred. More pupils are suffering from mental health issues, and there is much more awareness in schools for spotting potential problems and intervening early to get support.
“However, more than a third of referrals are not accepted. Schools have referred these pupils because they are concerned about their mental health and know that the child needs more specialist support than could, and should, be offered by school staff.
“Worryingly, many of these children are not meeting the thresholds set by CAMHS. NAHT and other organisations are concerned about how high these thresholds are.
“The other concern is about what support those children can then get if they have been turned down by CAMHS. The capacity of CAMHS has been declining. Underfunding and lack of resources mean they cannot take on children who don’t meet clinical thresholds; this means that early intervention by specialist mental health staff is not happening.
“This is where charities and the voluntary sector are picking up some of the pieces. Schools will do everything they can to support their pupils, and many employ counsellors and other mental health support services to plug the gap between school and specialist CAMHS.
"However, not all schools have access to in-school services, and we also know that school staff are not mental health specialists, so schools will signpost pupils and their families to other sources of support.”
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