Mental Health Treatment for Children and Young People (Waiting Times)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 18th December 2019.

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Photo of Maurice Corry Maurice Corry Conservative

3. To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking in response to reports of worsening delays in the waiting times for children and young people to receive mental health treatment. (S5O-03927)

Photo of Clare Haughey Clare Haughey Scottish National Party

I have been absolutely clear that long waits for children and young people to access mental health treatment are unacceptable.

There is no simple solution in the face of increased demand for children and young people’s mental health services. That is why we are undertaking an ambitious programme of work to monitor and drive forward performance in mental health waiting times across Scotland, while also supporting early intervention in community settings and across the third sector, local government and the national health service. That includes £250 million to support positive mental health for children and young people, in addition to £58 million over four years specifically to improve access to child and adolescent mental health services and psychological therapies, and to invest in additional staff.

Through the children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing programme board, which is jointly chaired by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, we are implementing the key recommendations of the Coia task force, the youth commission on mental health, and the Scottish Association for Mental Health audit of rejected referrals.

Photo of Maurice Corry Maurice Corry Conservative

I thank the minister for her answer, and I understand what she is saying. Nevertheless, local delivery plan standards state that 90 per cent of young people should start treatment for those services within 18 weeks of referral. However, figures for the most recent quarter show that only 64.5 per cent met that standard. Will the minster explain why that mental health crisis has not improved, despite a commitment to improve early intervention?

Photo of Clare Haughey Clare Haughey Scottish National Party

As I said in my previous answer, we are working very closely with CAMHS and others to ensure that we improve overall performance on meeting the CAMHS waiting times standards. We have committed to publishing a new CAMHS specification, which lays out the standards that children and young people, and their families, can expect. That work has also been informed by the SAMH audit of rejected referrals. In the 2019-20 programme for government, we set out our plans to work with NHS boards to deliver trajectories to meet the mental health waiting time standard by December 2020. Those trajectories will be set out in boards’ annual operational plans, ensuring that performance is tied to funding.

Photo of Mary Fee Mary Fee Labour

Looked-after children are a group for whom CAMHS support can be vital. When children move placements and into new areas, they can drop off already-long waiting lists and end up at the back of the queue. What assessment has the Government carried out of that situation, and what action is it taking to ensure that all looked-after children can access appropriate mental health support when they need it?

Photo of Clare Haughey Clare Haughey Scottish National Party

I thank Mary Fee for raising that issue. She may remember that one of the strands of the work of the Coia task force was to highlight vulnerable children who are at risk: both those who are looked-after and accommodated and those who are in the youth justice system and going through children’s panel hearings. The children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing programme board will be looking at the specific recommendations made by the Coia task force to ensure that that particularly vulnerable group of children does not fall through gaps.