1 in 7 children wait over year for mental health treatment

Dr Shari McDaid, chairwoman of the Children's Mental HealthCoalition, at the launch of their report.

One in seven children and teenagers referred for mental health treatment are still waiting a year or more to access appropriate services, according to the Children’s Mental Health Coalition.

At the launch yesterday of a report entitled Meeting the mental health support needs of children and adolescents, the coalition said more resources were needed to boost the treatment options available to young people.

It highlighted the continuing shortfall within Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), which it said had been aided by delays in staff recruitment under three successive budgets from 2012 to 2014.

According to the report, last December 73% of the accepted referrals or re- referrals to child and adolescent community health teams were offered a first appointment and seen within three months — below the national target of 75%.

By the end of last year, the CAMHS waiting list had increased to 2,818 cases — up 8% compared to the previous December and 125, or 300 cases, above the HSE’s year-end target.

And the report also said that 14% of children were waiting more than 12 months to access CAMHS services.

The Children’s Mental Health Coalition, chaired by Mental Health Reform, is a coalition including 53 organisations. Its report was launched by the recently appointed ombudsman for children, Niall Muldoon.

Chairwoman of the coalition, Shari McDaid, said: “Unfortunately, despite additional resources that have been put into CAMHS services in the last few years, community teams are struggling to cope with increased demand.”

She said that despite Government investment which had resulted in an increase of 47 staff in community teams last year alone, and a 71% increase in the number of child and adolescent mental health consultant posts during the year, waiting lists had still gone up.

She said another issue was the 89 young people — one third of all child and adolescent admissions — had been admitted to adult wards last year.

“This report has also found that there are a bewildering number of agencies involved in children’s mental health care, which can cause confusion at what is already a stressful time for young people and their families,” said Dr McDaid.

“One of the recommendations of the Children’s Mental Health Coalition is that CAMHS should be made more accessible, including through the provision of clear information to young people and their families.”

Dr Muldoon said he welcomed moves to enhance mental health promotion, adding: “If we bring the conversation to the widest audience we are likely to generate early intervention.”

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