young mental healthThere is an urgent need to reform Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) so that young people can get the help they need, when they need it, according to a new report. 

NHS England told Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) that “more of the same is not an option” in its Local Transformation Plans for Children and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing: Guidance and support for local areas in August last year.

But as CCGs reveal their Transformation Plans, a report by advice and counselling charity Youth Access has claimed that local authority cuts, a lack of joined-up commissioning and protectionism are threatening early intervention and prevention services.

Last March, a Government taskforce proposed greater investment in voluntary sector Youth Information, Advice and Counselling Services (YIACS) as a way of addressing the current inaccessibility of mental health services for young people. YIACS were hailed as a model for meeting the needs of young people who fall through the gaps in statutory services at key points of transition.

But Youth Access’ report questions the extent to which investment is really likely to become more focused on preventative voluntary sector services. Findings include:

Despite a steady increase in NHS funding for YIACS’ youth counselling services over recent years, the collapse of local authority funding is undermining the capacity of YIACS to provide a range of complementary services, such as advice on money and housing, which are known to tackle the underlying ‘social determinants’ of mental health

Local funding available to YIACS is increasingly focused on crisis interventions

Turbulence within local public services is hindering effective joined-up commissioning across service boundaries, limiting the potential to take a more strategic approach to early intervention and prevention

Vested interests within local authorities and the NHS may lead to protectionism, with investment centred on existing statutory services at the exclusion of effective voluntary sector services that take a more preventative approach.

Barbara Rayment, director of Youth Access, said: “We will not improve access or reduce the need for expensive crisis interventions unless we can really start to expand our investment in genuinely young people-focussed services that are accessible, flexible and preventative. Voluntary sector YIACS have been identified as part of the solution and are highly cost-effective.

“However, while CAMHS Transformation Planning promises much, there remains a risk that wider cuts, a lack of joined-up commissioning and protectionism will result in ‘more of the same’ – and even higher levels of unmet need.”