Call for a 'national crusade' as requests for mental health support slump

Published on September 4, 2020

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC), an alliance of leading independent and third sector providers of children’s services, has warned of a mental health “perfect storm” for children and young people. It has also called for a “national crusade” to tackle this.

The warning comes on the back of figures which indicate that the number of referrals to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) has fallen by a staggering 55.8 per cent between the quarter ending March 2020 and quarter ending June 2020 (from 9,017 to 3,985).

These range from a 66.7 per cent fall in referrals to NHS Dumfries and Galloway to a 7.7 per cent fall in referrals to NHS Orkney (full table in Notes to Editors).

It also highlights that in June 2020, 1,136 children and young people had been waiting more than a year for treatment, up from 581 on the same point last year.

The SCSC has warned that mental health services will face an overwhelming and unprecedented pressure due to pent-up demand created by the COVID-19 lockdown, coupled with a cut in youth support services. This could potentially lead to a “lost generation” of vulnerable children and young people who are missing out on the support they vitally need.

It has called for a “national crusade”, with greater partnership working between the NHS, local authorities and the third and independent sectors, and significantly increased investment in mental health services. The coalition has also urged that greater awareness is made of the services on offer, especially those at a community level.

The SCSC has warned that self-isolation and social distancing have had an impact on young people struggling with issues such as anxiety and depression. It has noted that even the most resilient children are going to need additional support as they navigate this transition back into whatever is the new normal, and some will need a lot of extra support.

A  report commissioned by Young Scot, YouthLink Scotland and the Scottish Youth Parliament, called Lockdown Lowdown, found almost two-fifths of young people felt moderately or extremely concerned about their own mental wellbeing.

A spokesperson for the SCSC commented:

“These latest figures are deeply troubling and point to a ‘perfect storm’ for our young people, with increased demand coupled with cuts in services.

“While referrals have dropped during lockdown and children are not accessing support, we are storing up immense problems for the future as specialist mental health services face being overwhelmed due to greatly increased demand.

“We need a ‘national crusade’ to deliver the mental health provision our young people desperately need. The Government needs to work urgently with the relevant authorities to ensure that not only is there sufficient provision available at the local community level, but that this is clearly communicated and easily accessible for young people and their parents or carers.

“It is not just the NHS and local authorities, but the third sector and other independent organisations play a key role in addressing mental health services and must receive the funding they vitally need or we face a ‘lost generation’ of vulnerable children and young people.”


Notes to Editors

Health boardJan-March 2020April-June 2020% drop in referrals
NHS Shetland341944.1
NHS Orkney13127.7
NHS Dumfries & Galloway38212766.7
NHS Ayrshire & Arran52323255.6
NHS Lanarkshire110941662.5
NHS Lothian165982550.1
NHS Grampian64335245.2
NHS Fife79828863.9
NHS Forth Valley43316961
NHS Western Isles321650
NHS Borders1308534.6
NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde Valley211891456.8
NHS Highland45623648.2
NHS Tayside62929453.2

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