NHS ‘struggling to improve mental health services for young people’

22 Mar 17

NHS commissioning bodies are failing to improve mental health services for young people, says an Education Policy Institute report out today.

Children with mental health issues are spending thousands of nights on adult wards against government policy, the research institute found.

This comes after a cross-party group of MPs revealed local authorities were struggling to meet the increasing demands on children’s social care.

The All Party Parliamentary Group for Children report, released on Friday last week, concluded nearly 90% of senior managers find it increasingly difficult to provide for children ‘in need’.

The Education Policy Institute report showed 73.2% of clinical commissioning groups had failed to meet NHS England’s own benchmark for improving services.

Between July and September 2016 children spent a total of 2,654 nights on an adult ward – an increase of a quarter compared to April to June 2016, the institute found. Government policy states that no-one under 18 should be treated on an adult ward.

Less than a third – 31.6% - of CCGS in England had a fully-funded plan to improve crisis care in young people’s mental health services.

It also discovered there was a wide variation between the clinical commissioning groups’ spending per head – with those at the top spending more than £52 per capita and those at the bottom spending £23 or less.

The year-long review of children’s social services by the APPG for Children heard local authorities are having to target dwindling resources toward children who have already suffered abuse or neglect, or those at a high risk of harm, as opposed to prevention.

The No Good Options report says between 2010/11 and 2015/16 the number of child protection plans surged 29%. Over the same period, the number of children taken into care rose by 17%. While local authority spending power has decreased by more than 20% in the same period.

Tim Loughton, co-chair for APPG for Children, said: “Our inquiry found that there is huge variation in the way in which local authorities decide to support the most vulnerable children.

“Perhaps most strikingly, the proportion of children taken into care varies from just 22 per 10,000 in one local authority to 164 per 10,000 in another." This 'postcode lottery' was deeply worrying, he added.

Paul Dossett, UK head of local government at accounting firm Grant Thornton, highlighted that in 2015/16 73% of councils overspent against their children’s social care services budget and were set to likewise this year. He added: “To stand a chance of being able to provide the level of service required, and expected, councils need to focus on prevention.”

Dave Hill, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said: “Our members and their teams are absolutely committed to providing high-quality and effective services that meet the needs of vulnerable children and their families, however, the impact of several years of financial austerity is now all too visible in local communities.”

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