Children’s Commissioner briefing: Children’s mental health service 2020/2021

Children’s mental health has for decades been a low priority service within the NHS – with no improvement targets and low levels of funding. However, in recent years there has been good progress to reduce the gap between the number of children with an emerging mental health need and the support available. The Children’s Commissioner’s annual briefing has tracked this performance improvement.

However, there is still more to do. Some children are still waiting a long time for their treatment to begin, and many are still not accepted onto waiting lists.

There is still wide variation between local areas on what is being achieved. For example, the percentage of children waiting for treatment at the end of the year varied greatly between local areas: from as low as 14% in NHS Castle Point & Rochford and NHS Mid Essex, to 78% in NHS East Sussex.

The challenge is also greater because of the pandemic. Over the last two years, there has been a sharp increase in the number of children experiencing mental health problems. NHS surveys show that before the pandemic, in 2017, 1 in 9 children had a probable mental health disorder. That has now jumped to 1 in 6.

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