The BBC’s television programme Panorama has uncovered worrying new evidence of the rise in children with mental health problems and a system described by doctors as “not fit for purpose.”
Even though the government says that it was investing in an extra £1.4 bn in child mental health, it appears that some child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) are rationing the treatment options to only those children who are in the most desperate need.
According to the Care Quality Commission, statistics suggest the number of children visiting A and E for mental health treatment has more than doubled since 2010.
Children who are involved in family breakdown disputes as to where they should live post break up, or how much contact they should have with the other parent, are often subjected to extra stress because of the breakdown of parental relationships. Young people often feel that they are in some way to blame for the situation that they find themselves in, and carry feelings of guilt. If they are also going through normal adolescent experiences, life can feel very burdensome; they often require professional help to support them through the rough patches.
Children in the care system have frequently experienced significant abuse ranging from parental addiction to drugs and alcohol, to neglect and mental health breakdown. They are often removed from their home and placed in foster care or residential establishments. These children also have feelings of guilt – was there something they could have done to stop social services intervening? Some of these kids go on to develop their own addictions to drugs or alcohol, which will almost always exacerbate their mental health. They will also have children of their own.
Care proceedings are meant to be completed in 26 weeks. Professionals working in the family justice system are therefore only involved for a relatively short time frame. What support is available to these vulnerable people after the case is over? What impact will it have on these children as they grow into adulthood?
We frequently represent such vulnerable children and see, at first hand, the paucity of some of the mental health services are available. Surely as a civilised society one of our most important duties is to make sure that children receive the very best professional help and support.