YoungMinds, the UK charity committed to improving the emotional wellbeing and mental health of children and young people, has published its findings on funding for children’s mental health services to see what funding is actually being spent on.
What funding for children’s mental health services was promised?
In 2015, the Government pledged an extra £1.25 billion to ‘transform’ Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) over the next five years. Future in Mind set out the Government’s vision for children and young people’s mental health, what needed to change and the additional investment to make it happen.
The key themes were:
- Promoting resilience, prevention and early intervention.
- Improving access to effective support – a system without tiers.
- Care for the most vulnerable.
- Accountability and transparency.
- Developing the workforce.
What’s the reality?
New research from YoungMinds reveals that many local health bodies are diverting some of the new funding received for CAMHS to other priorities.
To find out what the money was actually being spent on, YoungMinds contacted 199 clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) through Freedom of Information Requests. The responses revealed:
- Fewer than half of the CCGs who responded could provide full information about their CAMHS budgets.
- In the first year of extra funding (2015-2016), only 36% of CCGs who responded increased their CAMHS spend to reflect their additional government funds.
- Nearly two-thirds (64%) of CCGs used some or all of the extra money to backfill cuts or to spend on other priorities.
- In the second year of extra funding (2016-17), only half of CCGs (50%) who responded increased their CAMHS spend to reflect their additional government funds. The other half (50%) are using some or all of the extra money for other priorities.
Where does that leave CAMHS?
Responding to this research about funding for children’s mental health services, Sean Duggan, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Network, said,
’The Government committed an additional £1.25 billion to mental health services.
‘That promise will simply not be fulfilled unless the pace of funding quickens. Children and young people’s mental healthcare is quite simply underfunded at a time when this age group is suffering from rising mental health problems.
‘NHS commissioners’ contract negotiations for the next two years closed on 23rd December. There is a serious and pressing need for these contracts to get things back on track by moving promised funding from the commissioners to frontline services. This is currently our biggest opportunity to improve mental health services and we cannot afford to waste it.
‘The best evidence shows that, pound-for-pound, mental health services make a cost-effective contribution to public health. Their expansion is important if the NHS is to remain sustainable and if patients are to receive a well-rounded experience of care.’
Sarah Brennan, Chief Executive of YoungMinds, said, ‘After years of cuts, the Government’s recent investment in children’s mental health services was hugely welcome, and we should now be witnessing significant improvements across the country. But the reality is that the situation varies enormously from one area to the next. While some CCGs have made big increases in their spending, it’s deeply concerning that so many others are using some of the new money to backfill cuts or to spend on other priorities.
‘It is also alarming that half of CCGs can’t provide full information about their CAMHS budgets. If they aren’t properly tracking how much money they are spending, it is impossible to say whether services are improving.
‘Jeremy Hunt has described CAMHS as the single weakest area of NHS provision, so it is vital that all the new money is spent where it was intended – on creating better services with a greater focus on early intervention.’