children counselling Children who have experienced abuse are increasingly struggling to access mental health support unless they are seriously ill, a new survey has found.

In a survey by the NSPCC of more than 1,000 professionals working with children after abuse, more than 50% said that tight criteria to access local NHS mental health services means these children are all too often only offered help if they are suicidal, self-harming or developing chronic mental health problems.

The survey found that in many cases, children have to wait more than 5 months to get specialist support. And some of those surveyed said that help for children who had been abused was not seen as a priority.

NSPCC’s survey of professionals – including psychologists, GPs, teachers and social workers – found that 96% said there aren’t enough CAMHS services for children who have experienced abuse and three quarters said it's harder to access therapeutic services now than 5 years ago.

Children who have been abused or neglected are often referred by GPs and local authorities to CAMHS. While not all children will have a diagnosable mental health problem, many still need therapeutic support to help them deal with their trauma and reduce the chance of chronic mental health conditions developing in the future.

In response to these findings, the NSPCC has launched a new campaign, called It's Time, which calls for:

Increased funding for support services for children who've suffered abuse

Government to produce clear guidelines on when a child should be offered therapeutic support

More research into the scale of the problem, as well as what type of support works best.

Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, said: "It shames our nation that children who have suffered abuse languish for months and even years without support. It's Time to ensure that they automatically get the help they need to recover.

"We know that children are often left alone to deal with the corrosive emotional and psychological consequences of appalling abuse and that all too often they face long waits for help with their trauma, or the services offered aren't appropriate for children whose lives have been turned upside down by their experiences: this must change.

"The views of professionals in this survey speak loud and clear. The government and those that commission services urgently need to increase what is currently available to support this most vulnerable group of children."