The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC), an alliance of leading providers of specialist care and education to vulnerable children and young people, is calling on the Scottish Government to deliver a budget for mental health.
The call comes as new waiting time figures out today (6th December) highlight that almost a third of children and young people are not being seen within the Scottish Government's waiting time target.
Figures published by Public Health Scotland indicate that over the quarter covering July to September 2022, a third (32.1 per cent) of children and young people had been waiting more than 18 weeks from referral to starting treatment at child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), delivered by the NHS in Scotland. This is almost 10 per cent down on the same quarter last year when it was 78.3 per cent.
Figures also show that as many as 8,331 children and young people were still stuck on waiting lists to start treatment at the end of September 2022.
The Scottish Government's target is that 90 per cent of children and young people should start treatment within 18 weeks of referral to CAMHS.
These figures however come on the back of a planned £38 million cut to planned mental health spending by the Scottish Government in its forthcoming budget, to be revealed on 15th December.
This cut in spending is despite a mental health emergency, which is set to worsen given the cost-of-living crisis and services already at breaking point.
The SCSC is calling on the Scottish Government to reverse its decision and prioritise mental health spending, avoiding a potential lost generation of children and young people with mental health problems, such as anxiety, depression and self-harm.
Even before the Covid-19 pandemic cases of poor mental health in children and young people were at unprecedented levels, with under-resourced services struggling to keep pace with growing demand, leaving an increasing number of vulnerable individuals unable to access support. The pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis have further exacerbated this situation.
The SCSC also noted that without increased spending it is unlikely the Scottish Government will be able to achieve its target, as outlined in the NHS Recovery Plan, to clear waiting lists by March 2023 and ensure that at least 90 per cent of children and young people referred to CAMHS start treatment within 18 weeks.
A spokesperson for the SCSC commented:
“The latest figures highlighting that almost a third of children and young people are not being seen within the Scottish Government’s 18-week waiting time target is extremely alarming.
“Even before the Covid-19 pandemic demand for already overstretched and under-resourced mental health services was increasing. Both the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis are making matters even worse, creating a potential lost generation of vulnerable children and young people.
“We are facing a mental health emergency and many of our children and young people are at breaking point, with stress and anxiety reaching alarming levels.
“However, this concerningly comes against a background of a proposed cut to mental health budgets, meaning that some of our children and young people simply won’t get the help they desperately need, with potentially catastrophic consequences.
“We would urge the Scottish Government to reconsider its proposed cuts to the mental health budget and make the forthcoming budget a budget for mental health.”
Notes to Editors
About the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition
The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC) is an alliance of leading providers of specialist care and education to vulnerable children and young people, as well as support to their families or carers.
It seeks to improve the lives of these children and young people, and its vision is to make Scotland the best place in the world for them to grow up in.
The SCSC aims to achieve this through campaigning to improve support for these vulnerable individuals. This seeks to ensure that a wide range of high-quality, well-resourced and easily accessible services is provided. Tailored to individual needs this will help them to achieve their full potential.
Members of the SCSC are:
Further information about the SCSC is available at www.thescsc.org.uk.