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Abused children unable to access mental health services

Health professionals say support is ‘inadequate’

Jo Carlowe

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Support for children who have been abused is “inadequate” with many unable to access local NHS mental health services.

In a survey of more than 1,000 professionals, including GPs, psychologists, teachers and social workers, over half said the tight criteria to access therapeutic services meant most abused children were struggling to get help. 

The NSPCC survey, revealed that children have to wait over five months to get specialist support. Almost all (96%) of the professionals surveyed said there are not enough CAMHS services for children who have experienced abuse, and three quarters of those questioned said it was harder to access therapeutic services now than it was five years ago. 

Peter Wanless, chief executive at the NSPCC, said: “It shames our nation that children who have suffered abuse languish for months and even years without support. It’s time to ensure that they automatically get the help they need to recover….The views of professionals in this survey speak loud and clear. The government and those that commission services urgently need to increase what is currently available to support this most vulnerable group of children.” 

The organisation has also launched the It’s Time campaign. This calls for:

  • increased funding for support services for children who've suffered abuse
  • the government to produce clear guidelines on when a child should be offered therapeutic support
  • more research into the scale of the problem, as well as what type of support works best

A Department of Health spokesperson said the government had pledged further investment. 

“We are investing £1.4bn into young people’s mental health and are working with local areas to improve services in hospitals, schools and communities.”

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) meanwhile has called for better investment in children’s nursing and training in relation to child mental health. 

JP Nolan, Head of Nursing Practice at the RCN, said: “Child abuse is a major problem that can result in long-term health issues, both mental and physical.

“When help and treatment is not available, the impact of abuse can escalate into major issues that continue long into adulthood. Investment in children’s nursing and training, particularly in children’s mental health, is vitally needed if all victims of abuse are to get the help and support they deserve.”

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