Children’s mental health funding not going where it should

YoungMinds analysis reveals that many local health bodies are diverting some of the new funding received for children's mental health services to other priorities.

In 2015, the government pledged an extra £1.4 billion over five years to “transform” Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). Research undertaken by YoungMinds into the responses of 199 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) from Freedom of Information requests has revealed that:

  • Fewer than half of the CCGs who responded were able to provide full information about their CAMHS budgets. If CAMHS services are to improve, there needs to be far greater accountability about where money is being spent.
  • In the first year of extra funding (2015-16), only 36% of CCGs who responded increased their CAMHS spend to reflect their additional government funds. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of CCGs used some or all of the extra money to backfill cuts or to spend on other priorities.  
  • In the second year of extra funding (2016-17), only half of CCGs (50%) who responded increased their CAMHS spend to reflect their additional government funds. The other half (50%) are using some or all of the extra money for other priorities.

Sarah Brennan, Chief Executive of YoungMinds, said:

After years of cuts, the government’s recent investment in children’s mental health services was hugely welcome, and we should now be witnessing significant improvements across the country. But the reality is that the situation varies enormously from one area to the next. While some CCGs have made big increases in their spending, it’s deeply concerning that so many others are using some of the new money to backfill cuts or to spend on other priorities.

It is also alarming that half of CCGs can’t provide full information about their CAMHS budgets. If they aren’t properly tracking how much money they are spending, it is impossible to say whether services are improving.

Jeremy Hunt has described CAMHS as the single weakest area of NHS provision, so it is vital that all the new money is spent where it was intended – on creating better services with a greater focus on early intervention.”

Recent research has revealed the pressure that CAMHS services are under: waiting-times for assessments vary from a few weeks to more than a year, while around a quarter of children who are assessed are turned down for treatment, often on the grounds that their problems are “not serious enough”.

In total, around three-quarters of children and young people with mental health problems do not get the help they need.

Janice, whose daughter is being treated by CAMHS, said:

Trying to get help for my daughter has been so frustrating. You have to wait and wait and the longer you are waiting the worse the problems get. When my daughter was self-harming, CAMHS had nothing to offer. She has now been on a waiting list for over a year with no support. When you do get treatment, it’s not consistent and there’s no follow-up. I have learnt to call and nag continuously. It is exhausting and impacts on the

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