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Delivering mental health transformation for all children

Findings from engagement with the children and young people’s voluntary sector in Autumn 2016

This report focuses on progress and challenges in improving children and young people’s mental health services in England, particularly for minority or vulnerable groups. It is based on the views of 49 professionals working with children and young people, primarily from the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector (VCSE).

Generally these representatives of the children’s sector do not think expectations set out by NHS England in this area will be easy to achieve for the children and young people they work with. Respondents reported improvements in processes and structures more than improvements in access to services and outcomes for children and young people. However, some did suggest there had been improvements on the ground.

There are concerns about the system not meeting demand. This relates not just to waiting lists but the amount of time services are able to dedicate to each service user.

We also heard concerns that not all commissioners are playing their part in making improvements. This included doubts about whether local commissioners were spending money allocated by the Government for children's mental health as intended, and whether they were developing transformation plans and service specifications in a way that would deliver improvements.

Respondents indicated that the children and young people's mental health workforce is overstretched and transient in nature, undermining the availability and quality of care.

We heard in particular from those working with disabled children, bereaved children, children in care, young carers, children involved in the justice system and children in poverty. Common themes highlighted included the need to coordinate care across a child's range of needs; appropriately differentiate mental health from other needs; personalise care based on children's particular experiences; and ensure services reach those most in need.

We heard ideas about how the VCSE sector could play a greater role in addressing particular challenges. This could include bolstering their role in providing information to help children, young people and their families navigate the system, helping services across various agencies join together, and improving communication and engagement with vulnerable and seldom heard children.

However, the sector's positive contribution is potentially hindered by processes and policies within the NHS. These include NHS colleagues placing restrictions on access to training for VCSE staff and not taking referrals from VCSE providers as well as commissioning decisions that may not acknowledge the full contribution that such organisations can make.