We support the Children’s Commissioner’s recommendation for counselling in schools, more early support hubs and expanded mental health support teams to help children who don’t reach the threshold to access Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

This follows today’s shocking report revealing the unacceptable number of children and young people (270,300) in England waiting for mental health support, following referral to CAMHS.

The statistics, sourced from NHS England, reveal that in 2022-23, nearly one million children and young people (949,200) were referred to CAMHS. This equates to 8% of the 11.9 million children in England.

Although almost 305,000 started treatment, some 270,300 were still waiting by the end of the year. And a total of 372,800 (39%) had their referrals closed before accessing CYPMHS.

Waiting times vary across England

The report also revealed waiting times for mental health support continue to vary across the country and that nearly 40,000 children experienced a wait of more than two years.

Martin Bell, our Head of Policy and Public Affairs, said “Today’s report is shocking and underlines the fact that demand for children's mental health services continue to outstrip available specialist support available through CAMHS.

“More and more children and young people are struggling with their mental health and wellbeing – and they’re finding it harder to access professional support. Waiting lists are growing, while resources and funding are being cut.

“School counselling provides an appropriate step-up intervention for those caught between support offered by Mental Health Support Teams, where they’re in place, and those that are either waiting for CAMHS support or who don’t meet the threshold. 

“We need to see the UK Government urgently commit to a fully funded school counselling programme across England to help keep many children away from costly and overstretched CAMHS and crisis care.

“We’ve continually campaigned for a paid counsellor to be available in every primary, secondary school, academy and further education college in England.

“Last month we joined with partners to ask all political parties to legislate for the statutory provision of counselling by specialist children and young people counsellors or psychotherapists.

“We have more than 19,000 members who are trained to work therapeutically with children and young people. They need to be part of the solution to this children’s mental health crisis.”

Further recommendations

Today’s report from the Children’s Commissioner also called for:

  • A bold, strategic 10-year plan for children and young people's mental health, to ensure fewer children experience mental ill-health, and all who do receive excellent care;
  • Reduced waiting times for mental health services, so no child is turned away from mental health support or waits more than four weeks for an initial assessment for their mental health needs, and no more than four weeks after that to receive support;
  • Reforms to the Mental Health Act so that it is fit for the 21st century and accelerates the decrease in the number of children being inappropriately detained and restrained in mental health hospitals – with a view to supporting children at home or in the community.