Fourth annual report. The state of children’s mental health services 2020-21
3rd Feb 2021
Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England, has now published her fourth annual report on the current state of children’s mental health services in England.
This report examines the progress that has been made over the past five years, including lack of adequate access to mental health services for children as well as looking at the impact of COVID-19 on children’s mental health (up to March 2020).
This new report highlights how damage to children’s mental health caused by the COVID-19 crisis could last for years and argues that ‘access to children’s mental health services is still not adequate’. It continues to argue that the system currently in place lacks the capacity and flexibility to respond to the pandemic, which has been such a seismic event in the lives of children and young people in the UK.
The data in the report largely covers progress made from the past 5 years plus the impact of COVID-19 up to end of March 2020. The commissioners report argues that even before this crisis, children’s mental health services were far from meeting the existing level of need and that in the year before the pandemic, referrals to children’s mental health services increased by 35% while the number of children accessing treatment increased by just 4%.
As children’s education and social opportunities have suffered major disruption due to COVID a study estimates that 1 in 6 children now have a probable mental health condition (NHS study July 2020).
The report acknowledges that currently, mental health services in England do not have the capacity to cope with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on children and that although services have expanded, that capacity is not great enough to cope with the effect of the pandemic.
The Children’s Commissioner is calling on the Government to:
Commit to the implementation of Mental Health Service Trusts (MHT’S)s in every region of England. These should start now as they will take some time to fully develop.
That Government ensures a greater role for the voluntary sector within MHSTs to better incorporate existing charities and enable faster roll-out.
The commissioner decries the lack of ambition in the Government’s target to roll-out NHS-led counselling within schools in 25% of areas by 2023 and issues a plea for this target to be increased. Insisting that, it should not be a further decade before children have access to a decent mental health service.