11th April 2016

Children and Young People’s Mental Health: State of the Nation

Today the Education Policy Institute have published the first report of our Commission on children and young people’s mental health. Our new research has revealed the problems young people face when trying to access mental health care. Services turn away, on average, nearly a quarter (23%) of children and teenagers referred to them by their GPs, teachers or others. Our analysis of services’ eligibility criteria shows that this is often because there are high thresholds for access to their services, preventing often the most effective treatment of mental health conditions – early intervention.

Once a referral is accepted, young people often have to wait many months for treatment. Indeed, the average of the longest waiting times was nearly ten months between referral and the start of treatment. There was also significant variation in waiting times between providers. The average waiting time in Gateshead for example is five times as long as for those just down the road in Tyneside. Similarly, waits in North West London vary widely from two months in Kensington and Chelsea, to nearly six months in Brent.

We have also discovered big differences in the amount spent on children’s mental health in different areas and regions. Surprisingly, there is a reverse in the all too common North/South divide – with a higher level of expenditure in the North compared to the South and East of the country. This contrast with the higher demand for mental health services in the South and the East, uncovering a potential capacity problem in the South especially. One example of this can be seen in the South West, where since April 2015 there were over 50 days on which no beds were available in the whole region.

Finally, our report also looks at government policy on children’s mental health, such as the publication of Future in Mind – a transformation plan published in March 2015 along with a pledge of £1.25bn of funding over the next five years. EPI’s Commission will be looking carefully at this in future reports, with a thorough review of progress towards making the vision in the Future in Mind a reality.

We are keen to hear from a wide range of organisations and experts as we develop our research further. If you would like to get in touch, please contact me on emily.frith@epi.org.uk