young mental healthTwenty-five clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in England have planned to spend less than £25 a head on mental health services for the children in their communities in the 2016/17 financial year, new figures have revealed.

Researchers from the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych) have estimated the amount of money being spent per head by NHS commissioners on child and adolescent mental health services and found that commissioners in 10 areas will spend less than £10 per head (excluding eating disorders).

Luton plans to have the least spend on children and adolescent mental health – just £2.01 per head. Meanwhile, several CCGs in London also plan to spend less than £10 per head, including Enfield (£2.33), Tower Hamlets (£4.45), Ealing (£6.39), Central London (Westminster) (£7.65) and West London (£9.17).

The other CCGs intending to spend less than £10 are: North Somerset (£5.89), Tameside and Glossop (£8.61), High Weald Lewes Havens (£8.73) and Walsall (£9.04).

RCPsych’s figures show that children and adolescents’ mental health is still underfunded when it comes to the share of NHS spending in many areas of the country. There are 52 CCGS in England that are allocating less than 5% of their total mental health budget to services for children and young people. That’s despite 1 in 10 children aged 5-16 years having a diagnosable mental health disorder and children under 18 making up 21.3% of the population. 

This research follows data published earlier this week by the Education Policy Institute’s Independent Commission on Children and Young People’s Mental Health. Its report, Time to Deliver, found that in the first year of the government’s plan for increased funding, of the expected £250 million, only £143 million was released, and of that only £75 million was distributed to CCGs. It is up to local CCGs to ensure that money is passed to the frontline, based on their assessment of local need.  

Professor Sir Simon Wessely, president of the RCPsych, said: “Our analysis shows that in many areas of the country, the proportion of money that NHS clinical commissioning groups are planning to spend on the mental health of our children and young people is negligible. We know that more than half of all adults with mental health problems were diagnosed in childhood and less than half were treated appropriately at the time. It is a national scandal that opportunities to prevent mental illness from occurring in childhood are being missed because of unacceptably low investment.” 

Peter Hindley, chair of the RCPsych Faculty of Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists, added: “This research confirms the stories I hear from colleagues every day; that desperately needed money promised to child and adolescent mental health services is not getting through to local services in many parts of the country. Without this investment, it will be nigh on impossible to deliver the best outcomes for children, young people and their families, let alone achieve the national target of ensuring 70,000 more children receive treatment for their mental illness by 2021. The College calls upon commissioners to revisit their planned spend in this vital yet chronically underfunded area.”