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Damage to children’s mental health caused by Covid crisis demands major increase for children’s mental health services

Children's Commissioner publishes fourth annual report on the state of children’s mental health services in England

The Children's Commissioner's annual report on the state of children's mental health services in England has found that while there has been an expansion of children's mental health services over the past four years, such was the poor starting point that services are still nowhere near meeting the needs of many hundreds of thousands of children. The Children's Commissioner argues this is because of a lack of ambition in improving children's mental health services, despite numerous Government announcements on children's mental health.

However, the main positive finding of the analysis is that some individual local areas are improving above and beyond what central Government has expected of them and delivering vastly improved services for children.

The data in the report largely cover the period up to end of March 2020, showing a system without the necessary capacity or flexibility to respond to the pandemic, which has been such a seismic event in the lives of children. The major disruption to two years of education, alongside the limited opportunities to see friends and wider families, to play and enjoy activities and the worry about the impact of Covid on their families, will have taken a heavy toll on some children.

In the report, the Children's Commissioner calls for the Government to raise its ambition significantly to deliver a wholesale change in the way we provide children's mental health services. She argues the work that has been undertaken over the past five years paves the way – in particular the creation of Mental Health Support Teams which provide a model of integrated mental health care across schools and the NHS. One positive development from the Covid-19 crisis is that it has shown that some of these services can be provided digitally.

The Children's Commissioner also warns that the Government's current plan to roll out NHS-led counselling in schools to 20-25 per cent of areas by 2023 is not ambitious enough, particularly following the Covid pandemic, and repeats her call for an NHS-funded counsellor for every school as quickly as possible.

The substantive findings for this report are based on detailed examination of the data on children's mental health for 2019/2020. The main findings of the report are:

For the report, click here. For a summary of the report, click here.