BACP members are poised and ready to help ensure children and young people in Scotland get the access to counselling they urgently need, says our four nations lead Steve Mulligan.

Steve’s comments come after official figures showed that the number of children and young people waiting more than a year for specialist mental health treatment in Scotland has increased by more than 200 per cent in the last 12 months.

A total of 118 children and young people waited more than 53 weeks to be seen in the first three months of 2019, an increase on the 35 cases recorded in the same period last year.

The figures were released as it was revealed that 10 of Scotland's 14 health boards had missed their waiting times target for specialist child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) treatment.

They show that 4,237 children and young people started treatment at CAMHS in this period. More than a quarter (26.4 per cent) were not seen within the Scottish Government’s 18-week waiting time target, which should be delivered for at least 90 per cent of patients.

Urgent need

Steve said: “These latest waiting time figures highlight that Scotland’s health boards are continuing to fail to meet the urgent needs of thousands of children and young people to secure appropriate and timely mental health support.

“Last year we rightly applauded the ambition shown by Scottish Government, with their very welcomed investment of £80 million for new counselling provision across Scotland’s secondary schools, colleges and universities over the next five years.

“The data shows that the benefits of this investment aren’t yet being seen on the ground and serves as an important reminder of the need to rapidly roll out the new counselling support for Scotland’s children and young people to help reduce these lengthy waiting times.”

Steve said the data also demonstrates the “postcode lottery” of support. Four NHS boards met the 90 per cent target – NHS Dumfries and Galloway, NHS Forth Valley, NHS Shetland and NHS Western Isles.

However, in NHS Borders, 40 per cent of youngsters starting treatment in the first quarter of this year were seen within 18 weeks, while in NHS Grampian it was 43.3 per cent with NHS Tayside 57.9 per cent.

Care and support

The 350 new counselling roles in Scotland’s secondary school schools, and 80 new counsellors for universities and colleges will help alleviate pressure on over stretched CAMHS services. Analysis of the secondary school counselling programme in Wales showed that of those who received counselling in 2016 to 2017, 85% did not need an onward referral after completing their sessions.

Steve said: “A survey of our members in Scotland demonstrated that we have a workforce poised to take up these new roles and ultimately help ensure that children and young people are able to get the care and support they need, when they need it.

“Just over two-thirds of those currently working with children and young people indicated they have capacity to take on this additional work. Almost half of those not currently working with children and young people, were interested in taking up these opportunities.”

A Public Perception Survey carried out by BACP and YouGov found backing among people in Scotland, with 71 per cent of those surveyed saying all schools should offer counselling to children.

And research shows that three children in every classroom has a clinically diagnosable mental health problem and that 50 per cent of mental health problems are established by the age of 14, so early intervention is critical if we are to get on top of the growing mental health crisis and ensure fair access across all areas.

Steve said: “Young people are still waiting too long for help and being rejected from services too frequently.

“The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy urges Scottish Government to commence the urgent roll out of the new counselling provision for Scotland's schools, colleges and universities.”