Disappointing new figures reveal the worrying extent of how NHS children and adolescent mental health services are failing vulnerable young people.

The data highlights the importance of investing in other services – such as school counselling - that can support the large group of young people who are currently being let down as they don’t meet the threshold for treatment by CAMHs.

The Education Policy Institute’s report reveals one in four children – around 133,000 - who were referred to CAMHs in England were rejected in 2018/19, despite significant extra spending on the service. The rejection rates vary widely across the country.

Average waiting times for treatment are two months – twice the government’s target. But in some areas children are waiting as long as six months before they access treatment.

The report also found that fewer than one in five areas offer a specific service or have a dedicated staff member to support young people transitioning from CAMHs to adult services.

Jo Holmes, our Children, Young People and Families Lead, said:


“These disappointing figures highlight the worrying extent that NHS services are failing vulnerable young people at a time when they need support the most.

“While there are signs of hope with improvements in some areas, this report demonstrates that there are thousands of young people who are slipping through the net of support, as they have been rejected by CAMHs yet still desperately need help. This is where greater investment in other services – such as school counselling - could make a profound difference.

Paid school counsellors

“The Government has to stop looking at CAMHs as the only solution to the current children’s mental health crisis – and urgently invest more in paid school counsellors. The report highlights that there is not enough alternative provision to CAMHs for children and young people to fall back on, a national school counselling funded programme would clearly provide a consistent service to meet this growing demand”

Transformative young people

“School counselling can be a transformative experience that can support young people earlier, in non-clinical settings. Investing in school counselling can be one of the answers to reducing the strain on more specialist services.”

We're calling for a paid counsellor in every school and are constantly lobbying policy-makers to increase investment and improve access to counselling for children and young people. We're also sharing real-life stories and best practice from school and community counselling services around the UK to demonstrate to funders how counselling changes lives.