I completely agree. In fact, I would argue that if mental health is the Cinderella service in the NHS, children’s mental health is the Cinderella of the Cinderella service. That is brought into stark relief by child and adolescent mental health services across the country, although I will focus on Oxfordshire. My postbag is full of letters from parents who are desperate to get their children to CAMHS for all sorts of reasons. We have to remember that CAMHS is there for the most acute mental health needs; it does not cover the mild to moderate needs that so desperately need solving in school at an early, preventive stage. In Oxfordshire, children can wait for a referral for up to two years; extraordinarily, they are then often pushed back.
The Education Policy Institute reports that the number of referrals to specialist children’s mental health services has increased by 26% over the past five years, although the school population has increased by 3%. Something is clearly going on, whether it is lack of early intervention in schools or increased pressure.