Children’s and Adolescent’s Mental Health Services (CAMHS) are considered inadequate by the vast majority of professionals working with young people who had experienced abuse, a survey by the NSPCC has found.
The charity surveyed 1308 professionals, including healthcare professionals, psychologists, teachers and social workers, about their experience of services for children who had been abused. It found that 96% of respondents thought that these services were stretched and were not reaching every child who needed support.
'Child abuse is a major problem that can result in long term health issues, both mental and physical,' said JP Nolan, head of nursing practice at the Royal College of Nursing. ‘Present in the community, in schools and support services, all children’s nurses play a crucial role in young people’s lives, and are skilled in helping to support those who have been abused. However, if services are stretched too thin, vulnerable children will begin to slip through the cracks.’
The NSPCC said that mental health services are only offered to children after abuse if they are suicidal, self-harming or developing chronic mental health problems. Additionally, more than half of respondents to the survey said that tight clinical criteria meant that abused children were increasingly struggling to access services. The survey also found that 75% of professionals thought that the situation had been exacerbated in the last five years.
‘We know that children are often left alone to deal with the corrosive emotional and psychological consequences of appalling abuse,’ said Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC. ‘All too often they face long waits for help with their trauma, or the services offered aren't appropriate for children whose lives have been turned upside down by their experiences: this must change.’
Max Davie, from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said that policy makers have failed to takclet the crisis in child and adolescent mental health which has led to it becoming a hidden epidemic.
'While we welcome the recent funding increases for CAMHS, we are concerned that too much has been focused on simple treatment of clear mental health symptoms. These children often present in complex, aggressive and self destructive ways, and only a comprehensive, integrated CAMHS system will be able to serve their needs adequately,' he said.