In March 2017, a joint survey was launched by the Association of Child Psychotherapists (ACP), the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), the British Psychoanalytic Council (BPC) and the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) with the aim of capturing information from their members who were currently, or who had in the last five years, provided therapeutic services in UK health services.

The result is Working in the NHS: the state of children's services prepared by BACP research fellow Charlie Jackson, which focuses specifically on those who identified their main workplace setting as a children’s service.

Working in the NHS: the state of children’s services (pdf 0.5MB)

The report reveals how over the last five years services have been increasingly starved of resources, and are now facing a staffing and resourcing crisis. It highlights a number of highly concerning factors:

  • 76% say the number of posts is inadequate to meet clients’ needs
  • 33% say their service is facing downsizing or closure
  • 67% say waiting times have got longer over the last five years

The recent Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision: a Green Paper even admitted that the worst case scenario was that some young people are waiting 100 weeks for treatment in a children and young people’s mental health service, while the latest data shows that in 2016/17 the average wait for treatment in a children and young people’s mental health service was 12 weeks.

Shocking findings show that 84% of NHS therapists say that children have needed to have increasingly severe levels of illness in order to get help over the past five years.

This only serves to highlight that there are often not appropriate early intervention services available to help youngsters who do not meet the criteria for specialist services. BACP is committed to promoting the importance of early intervention, and ensuring that appropriate provision is put in place for children and young people and that mental health services are joined up.

Dr Andrew Reeves, Chair of BACP says: “Children and young people can experience a range of mental health distress, including bulling, bereavement, relationship difficulties with family and friends, managing emotions such as anger, and other common mental health problems. We know that school-based counselling is a proven early intervention which improves children and young people’s mental health and emotional well-being.

“Children in Northern Ireland and Wales have access to a school counsellor through government supported national programmes, but as yet there has been no commitment to roll out school-based counselling across England, although there are set to be pilot schemes trialled from 2019. So until at least 2019, and likely well beyond, England’s children will continue to remain behind their peers in Wales and Northern Ireland in terms of emotional support.

“School-based counselling can provide an early intervention to stop conditions accelerating into something more serious and complex, (in the Wales evaluation data the top three presenting issues for young people are family issues, anger and stress) and is quicker and easier for children to access, usually in just two to three weeks. Plus it can also work as a parallel support alongside CAMHS, at a fifth of the cost of one CAMHS session.

“We repeat our plea for politicians to properly resource NHS mental health services; as well funding for support in schools and communities, to provide greater access, shorter waiting times, and the wider range of interventions that children, young people and their families need and deserve.”

Notes to editors

The research will be presented by BACP Research Fellow Charlie Jackson as part of the 24th annual research conference 11-12 May 2018.