The charity found that the average waiting time between referral and assessment by local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) ranged from just a week in some areas to more than 26 weeks in others; with an average waiting time of nearly 2 months. In addition, thousands won't receive any treatment ever.
Wide variations in the length of time children had to wait were discovered within neighbouring counties, but also within the same cities in some cases – with differences in waiting times of up to 4 months across these areas.
The NSPCC has now warned of a mental health ‘time bomb’ after finding out that following assessment, a fifth of all children (39,652 out of 186,453 cases) referred to CAMHS are rejected.
NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said: “It’s totally unacceptable that this kind of postcode lottery exists with these vital specialist children’s mental health services. We know that large numbers of children, coping with the complex emotional and psychological fallout of abuse, seek help through these services...
“Recorded abuse against children is at record levels but doesn’t come near reflecting the overall scale of this crime. As more and more children bravely speak out about the sickening things that have been done to them it is essential that enough tailored services are there to support them. "
“CAMHS are just a part of the picture. We must urgently see improvements in access to child friendly trauma-based support, when children need it most, so they can recover and rebuild their childhoods wherever they live.”
The charity has also voiced fears that children with problems associated with abuse and neglect are slipping through the net after failing to meet high clinical thresholds for treatment by local NHS services.
Not all abused children will have a mental health problem but they are at greater risk of chronic conditions including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder if they don’t get proper therapeutic support early on.
Last year, ChildLine carried out 85,000 counselling sessions, with young people with mental health-related concerns – equal to 1 every 6 minutes. Around 5,000 of these children also sought help for sexual or physical abuse.
To read the report in full visit www.nspcc.org.uk