One in ten children and adolescents in Wales will experience a mental health issue, yet there are still serious concerns over the provision of Children & Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).
Waiting lists are too long, there is a lack of investment and focus on early intervention, too many young people are still inappropriately placed on adult mental health wards, safety checks are not common practice and many young people get lost in the transition between CAMHS and Adult Mental Health Services.
It’s almost a decade on since the Children’s Commissioner first warned that CAMHS provision was in ‘crisis across Wales’, yet many child health experts assert that this is still the case today. Figures compiled by the Welsh Liberal Democrats show that the number of vulnerable young people in Wales waiting more than 14 weeks to access child and adolescent psychiatric services has almost quadrupled, from 199 in January 2013 to 736 in January 2014.
In Wales we made a good start, being the first country in the UK to have a national strategy on CAMHS with the launch of ‘Everybody’s Business’ in 2001. There are examples of excellent practice across Wales, yet sadly despite action plans, frameworks and even the Mental Health (Wales) Measure, there remain significant concerns that can no longer be ignored.
This month my party hosted a debate in the National Assembly on the provision of CAMHS. In that debate we called on the Welsh Government to take a number of key steps including:
• investigating waiting times between a child or young person’s first assessment with CAMHS and their subsequent service referral;
• routinely publishing readmission statistics;
• consistent and accurate reporting of inappropriate placements on adult mental health wards;
• considering the introduction of mental health education within the school curriculum; and
• introducing a national framework to ensure continuity of treatment in the transition between CAMHS and Adult Mental Health Services.
The Welsh Labour Government voted against all of these suggestions. I am very worried they are burying their heads in the sand on CAMHS. There has been little progress since a review in 2009 and young people continue to be put at risk with a failure to address significant safety issues.
The mental health of our young people is far too important to get wrong. As with so many health issues getting the right help as early as possible makes a huge difference to the outcome for the individual. I hope the Welsh Government will act, and act quickly, to reverse the crisis in CAMHS.