Kids Let Down By ‘Patchy Service’ In Mental Health

Childrens’ minister Jane Hutt yesterday faced warnings that mental health services for children and teenagers in Wales were in crisis.

The annual report from the Children’s Commissioner for Wales found young people being let down by “inadequate and patchy” services.

Research by the commission’s staff revealed unacceptable delays in decision making about placements and treatments despite repeated warnings by the first commissioner Peter Clarke.

Last year Mr Clarke threatened to use his legal powers to look at the way the Assembly Government made decisions affecting children.

A replacement for the pioneering children’s commissioner, who died in January, is unlikely until next year after delays caused by the Assembly elections, and appointment procedures, AMs were told.

But in the report, his team said a proposal to improve child advocacy services, published after Mr Clarke’s death, does not meet children’s needs.

The Assembly Government’s idea for a board of specialists to advise ministers is a “poor and powerless substitute for an independent advocacy unit”, it said.

And a new approach towards school behaviour was needed because the ultimate sanction of permanently excluding children to tackle bad behaviour had failed.

The Assembly Government said three regional child mental health commissioning networks have been given money to improve services. Advocacy services had made good progress in recent years, and feedback to a consultation on a new policy will be published this month.

The minister told AMs that Peter Clarke’s legacy had been kept by staff in Colwyn Bay and Swansea over the past months and she hoped to make an announcement on an appointment before the end of the year.

The Assembly Government aimed to complete consultation on a new model for independent advocacy services soon, a national strategy for school age counselling early next year would be boosted by an extra £6.5m over three years.

An independent inspection service for child protection would be established to handle allegations by children against school staff.

The Government was putting in place a number of measures to enhance children and adolescent mental health services with targets to strengthen the service with an extra £4.8m over the next three years in the draft budget, she said.