Call for a review of children and young people rejected by mental health services

A leading children's charity is calling for a review of the assessment and referral processes for children and young people with mental health issues.

One in five referrals were refused in 2015.
One in five referrals were refused in 2015.

Barnardo’s Scotland is urging the Scottish Government to undertake a full review of referrals to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) after NHS figures showed that around 1 in 5 are rejected.

Over the last three years around 17,000 referrals were rejected and the charity is supporting a call made by Scottish Labour in their briefing on Mental Health in 2016, ‘Ending the Scandal’.

The charity has become increasingly concerned after carrying out a review of its services supporting around 3,000 children and young people which found that 50 per cent of those supported have a diagnosis of mental ill health or are presenting with a mental health issue.

At the time of review, three quarters of those presenting with mental health issues were receiving no service from CAMHS. Children and young people described losing trust in CAMHS because of the fear that they would not be seen.

The charity has also highlighted new research from The University of Stirling which shows that the odds of being rejected by CAMHS are significantly higher if a child or young person was referred by a teacher or had emotional or behavioural difficulties. A key recommendation from the research is that more work is urgently needed to investigate the experiences of children and young people who are waiting for or are rejected by CAMHS.

Martin Crewe, the charity’s director, said: “Although waiting times for CAMHS continue to be an issue, it is increasingly worrying that there are significant numbers of children and young people who are not being seen at all. These children and young people either go without support or receive limited or inappropriate help. In our experience this can be the result of something as simple as insufficient information being included on a referral form.

“A review should consider how the current system works including looking at the criteria for referral nationally, the process for making a decision and crucially what happens to those children and young people who are rejected. The children and young people we work with who are referred and not seen by CAMHS receive some support, but there are many who fall through the net. It is vital that the Scottish Government’s forthcoming mental health strategy addresses this issue.”

Monica Lennon MSP, Scottish Labour’s Inequalities spokeswoman, added: “It’s shocking enough that one in five children in Scotland are having to wait far too long for mental health treatment, but this new research indicates that many children and young people are not able to access specialist treatment at all.

“Many children across Scotland in need of mental health care are clearly not able to access the help they need, and I urge the SNP Government to listen to Barnardo’s Scotland’s call for a complete review of the referral process.