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Fifth of children are denied mental health treatment

Cases rejected because children did not meet CAMHS’s high clinical threshold

NSPCC has reported that statistics obtained from 35 mental health trusts across England show that there were a total of 186,453 cases referred by GPs and other professionals in which 39,652 children did not receive help.

The charity says that a worrying picture also emerged from six mental health trusts which provided a breakdown of outcomes for children referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) who had problems associated with abuse or neglect. In these trusts 305 of the 1,843 – one in six – cases were rejected.

Where reasons were given for not offering a service to children affected by abuse or neglect, it was often because they did not meet the high clinical threshold to qualify for treatment at a CAMHS. NSPCC notes that not all children who have been abused will have a diagnosable mental health problem but many will still need therapeutic support to help them deal with their trauma.

Some evidence has raised concerns around access to this kind of support for children and young people following abuse. Strict access criteria, both for assessment and treatment, have been identified as significant issues in some areas.

Peter Wanless, Chief Executive, said:

"There's been a huge increase in awareness about all forms of abuse in recent years. If children don't receive the right kind of help and support following a disclosure, the damage can last a lifetime and include post-traumatic stress disorder, depression or suicidal thoughts in adulthood.

"Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services are just one part of the jigsaw and it's clear the current range of support available doesn't meet the needs of many abused and neglected children. Desperate and frightened about their feelings, but unable to access services, some of these children call ChildLine.

"More and more victims of abuse are speaking out and we need to match their bravery with more specialist therapeutic support that is age-appropriate and there for children and young people, for as long as they need it."