Waiting lists in the NHS are increasing for physical illnesses. But at least they are monitored, and the government feels pressure to reduce them.
According to a new report from the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children), one child in five of those referred to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) is denied service. For those who get it, the wait for an assessment appointment averages two months across the country, more than 26 weeks in some areas, and “years not months” in others.
In other words, an unmanageably long time for the child or adolescent who has (or whose parents have) summoned up the resourcefulness and courage needed to seek help. The NPSCC surveyed experts, and they agreed that in the last five years it has become harder for children and young people to get mental health help. It has become harder both for those who can be diagnosed as having a determinate mental-health condition, and for those who don’t, but can benefit from help.
The NSPCC does not survey counselling services in schools. The anecdotal evidence is that these are scanty too, and have become more patchy as schools are converted to academies and separated from local government services. NSPCC estimates that more than 500,000 children in the UK each year are abused by a parent or a guardian – the equivalent to two children in every primary school class.