Child Mental Health Services ‘In Crisis’

A Report claiming mental health services for children and teenagers are in crisis will be debated by the Assembly today.

Despite repeated warnings from the children’s commissioner Peter Clarke, who died in January, the report says children are still being let down by “inadequate and patchy” services.

Research by his office found unacceptable delays in the time it took to make decisions about treatment and placements.

Last year Mr Clarke said he was considering using his legal powers to look at the way the Assembly Government made decisions affecting children.
In the report, his team said a proposal to improve child advocacy services, published after Mr Clarke’s death, did 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 says.

And it claims a new approach towards school behaviour is needed because the ultimate sanction of permanently expelling children to tackle bad behaviour has not worked.

The Assembly Government said three regional child mental health commissioning networks had been given money to improve services.

It said advocacy services had made good progress in recent years, and feedback to a consultation on a new policy would be published this month.

An Assembly spokesman said: “A clear message from the consultation is that all children are potentially vulnerable and should have access to some level of advocacy provision.”