The Royal College of Psychiatrists report shows that children and adolescents’ mental health is still underfunded

Underfunding of child and adolescent mental health services is highlighted in a new research report by the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Some local NHS areas are spending less than £10 a head on the mental health of children and young people in their communities. Researchers from the Royal College of Psychiatrists have estimated the amount of money being spent per head by NHS commissioners on child and adolescent mental health services for the 2016/17 financial year.

They found that 25 of the Clinical Commissioning Groups in England have planned to spend less than £25 a head on mental health services for the children in their communities. Commissioners in ten areas will spend less than £10 per head.

The Government has pledged to invest in child and adolescent mental health services, with £119 million of NHS funding allocated to clinical commissioning groups for this financial year and another £140 million promised for 2017/18, with an additional £30 million for eating disorder services. But it is up to local clinical commissioning groups to ensure that money is passed to the front line based on their assessment of local need.

A report by the RCPsych contains figures that show that child and adolescent mental health services are still being underfunded when it comes to NHS spending in many areas of the country. 52 Clinical Commissioning Groups in England are allocating less than 5% of their total mental health budget to services for children and young people. Even though one in every ten children aged 5-16 years has a diagnosable mental health disorder and children under 18 make up a fifth of the population (21.3%).

The President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Professor Sir Simon Wessely said:

Our analysis shows that in many areas of the country, the proportion of money that NHS clinical commissioning groups are planning to spend on the mental health of our children and young people is negligible. We know that more than half of all adults with mental health problems were diagnosed in childhood and less than half were treated appropriately at the time. It is a national scandal that opportunities to prevent mental illness from occurring in childhood are being missed because of unacceptably low investment”

The Chair of the RCPsych Faculty of Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists Peter Hindley, said:

This research confirms the stories I hear from colleagues every day; that desperately needed money, promised to child and adolescent mental health services is not getting through to local services in many parts of the country. Without this investment, it will be nigh on impossible to deliver the best outcomes for children, young people and their families, let alone achieve the national target of ensuring 70,000 more children receive treatment for their mental illness by 2021. The College calls upon commissioners to revisit their planned spend in this vital yet chronically underfunded area.”

The Royal College of Psychiatrists has created an interactive map showing the planned spend on children and adolescent mental health services across the country.

This is one of a number of reports highlighting the underspend on children's mental health.

The ACP asks why children are so often given so little when it comes to mental health spending. ACP members are specialists in child mental health teams, providing psychoanalytic psychotherapy assessments and treatment for some of the most vulnerable children and young people with highly complex needs.

An ACP member working in a CAMHS team said: "It makes no sense that some specialist and senior posts are being cut or frozen, when the need is so great.  Not providing the right support for children and young people now, will cost so much more on a number of levels, in the long run. There is also no guarantee of future funding beyond the next cohort of postgraduate mental health specialist trainees. Support for the most vulnerable means providing the right resources at the right time but also growing resources to continue to meet that need."