‘Transformation’ of children’s services needed

Thursday 4th July 2019

Mental health services for children and young people need to be transformed so they focus more on prevention, according to a specialist taskforce set up to ensure children can access help when they need it.

Reporting just over a year since its inception, the Children & Young People’s Mental Health Taskforce says wide-ranging reform is needed to make sure children in Scotland can get mental health help when they need it.

Clare Haughey, the Mental Health Minister, announced a new taskforce bringing together local government and the Scottish Government would be set up to follow the report’s recommendations.

But the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition, which campaigns to improve services for children and young people, says there needs to be investment in stretched mental health services alongside a renewed push for early intervention.

A ‘formal, long-term partnership’ between central and local government is said to be needed to drive these reforms, prompting the Mental Health Minister’s announcement of a new board that will be responsible for reforms across education, health, children’s services and the wider community.

Running until the end of 2020, the oversight body will be led by the Scottish Government’s mental health director and COSLA’s head of policy.

They will be responsible for directing ‘transformational change’ across a range of areas.

Mental health services for children and young people are found to be ‘inconsistent’ when it comes to referrals they do and do not accept, and the Taskforce calls for more inclusive referral criteria be developed.

There are also calls for an early response to signs of distress ‘without unnecessary delay or bureaucracy’ and for every child, their family and professionals to have ‘clear points of contact’ for advice or access to support.

Elsewhere, the group says early intervention and prevention should be prioritised when it comes to deciding where funding goes in future.

COSLA and Scottish Government are also called on to explore technological solutions, including websites and apps offering information about where to get support, general wellbeing advice and self-help approaches.

Ministers are also asked to look at the potential for ‘real time’ online conversations with mental health workers.

In a joint statement, Cllr Stephen McCabe and Cllr Stuart Currie, COSLA’s children and young people, and health and social care spokespeople, said: “We welcome the recommendations of the Children and Young People’s Taskforce and are very grateful for the significant amount of work and thinking that has gone into these by taskforce and workstream members, led by chair Dame Denise Coia.”

“The detailed report behind these recommendations is incredibly helpful in setting out a blueprint for improving the mental health of children and young people, and the services they and their families access.

“We know that the taskforce and its workstreams have been learning from examples of real creativity and true joined up working across Scotland, and these recommendations come as a result of listening to those working in our communities every day, and children, young people and families themselves.”


A spokesperson for the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition said: “We welcome the fact that it is highlighted in the report that ‘transformational change’ is required in order to improve children and young people’s mental health and the services that support them.

“Fundamental to this is a renewed focus on prevention and early intervention, improving outcomes for children and young people and reducing pressure on already overburdened specialist child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).

“But also key, given an increasing number of children and young people identified with mental health problems, is that we increase investment in these specialist services, ensuring that the 18-week target for mental health support is being met by the Scottish Government. Currently more than a quarter of children and young people are waiting more than 18-weeks for treatment.

“Around three children in a classroom at any one time have a mental health problem and there is an increasing demand on our stretched mental health services.”