BACP’s concerns for children and young people who are rejected by NHS children’s mental health services have been raised during a parliamentary debate.

Baroness Tyler of Enfield, the Liberal Democrats’ mental health spokesperson, quoted the figure that one in four children were rejected for treatment by child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) last year.

Members of the House of Lords, including Baroness Tyler, who was briefed by BACP ahead of the session, also stressed the importance of school counselling during the debate.

BACP Head of Policy Martin Bell: “NHS services simply do not have the capacity to meet rising need in children and young people’s mental health.  It’s fundamentally wrong that young people are not getting the access to mental health care that they need.

Minimise pressure

"Counselling in schools has been shown to be a highly effective support for children and young people who are experiencing emotional difficulties and has been shown to minimise pressure on CAMHS services. It must be a key part of the drive to improve mental health care.

“We are delighted to see this important subject raised and debated in Parliament and we hope the Government take notice of their parliamentary colleagues’ concerns. The situation must improve or else we are letting down a generation of vulnerable young people.”

 Leading the debate in the House of Lords, Baroness Tyler said: “There is a growing consensus that children’s mental health services need to improve radically to address the ever-increasing incidence of children’s poor mental health.

“As well as battling long waiting times, many children get lost in the gap between primary care and child and adolescent mental health services. The children who need these services are often too ill to be dealt with by primary care but not ill enough for CAMHS. Many GPs end up referring patients to CAMHS despite knowing that they will be rejected, but knowing that they need more support.

Children 'not ill enough'

“According to the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, as many as one in four children were rejected for treatment last year. Of utmost concern, the children and young people rejected as “not ill enough” for CAMHS include young people who have self-harmed and others who have experienced abuse.”

She said that many children received treatment far too late, or in some cases not at all.

Baroness Tyler also stressed the importance of counselling in schools and other community settings.

School counselling's important role

Conservative Baroness Wyld added: “School counselling services clearly can play an important role in preventing mental distress from escalating.”

The debate also looked at the NHS long term plan, funding for mental health treatment and the gap between primary care and CAMHS.

Responding on behalf of the Government, Baroness Manzoor, stated that mental health services will grow faster than the overall NHS budget, and referred to plans in Government’s Green Paper on children’s mental health to deliver a new schools and college-based service to help children and young people, which will be staffed by a new workforce.

Alongside access to a qualified, professional counsellor in every secondary school in England, BACP is calling for a national joined-up strategic approach for those children and young people who would benefit from counselling at point of referral, or who have been rejected from CAMHS, to be directed to counselling agencies and private practitioners. This workforce is already working to high standards with children and young people, with evidence-based outcomes.  

Martin Bell from BACP added “We hope that politicians from all political parties will continue to speak up in parliament about the vital issue of children’s mental health and listen to BACP and others who are calling for more to be done to improve mental health care for young people.”