Mental health reforms failing abused children

A new NSPCC report suggests Government plans for tackling abuse are failing to even properly count those children in need of mental health support.

Earlier this year, the NSPCC’s ‘It’s Time’ campaign called for significant improvements in therapeutic support for children who have experienced abuse or neglect. The Government committed £1.4bn to improving children’s mental health services, with local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) asked to produce Local Transformation Plans (LTPs) setting out how they will improve children’s mental health. Now the NSPCC have published a review of LTPs for Children’s Mental Health, a significant number of LTPs do not recognise abuse as a major risk factor for mental health issues, do not include abused children in needs assessments, and do not mention services for this group.

The NSPCC review found that just 14 per cent of plans contained an adequate needs assessment for children who have been abused or neglected. The charity concluded that 3.89 million children (34 per cent of children in England) live in an area where the local plan doesn't mention services for children who have experienced abuse or neglect.

Peter Wanless, CEO of NSPCC said: ‘Talking about local NHS plans may not sound exciting but it's essential because they are at the heart of the Government's promise to tackle the growing crisis in child mental health. These plans determine how money is spent locally. So it's vital they include services for children who've suffered abuse and neglect, as this one of the biggest causes behind them developing mental health problems.’

The NSPCC is writing to all CCGs to ask them to fully include the needs of young survivors when they refresh their plans. Professor Peter Kinderman, President of the British Psychological Society, commented: ‘Practitioner psychologists are well placed to provide interventions to young people affected by abuse across the country. Whilst the emphasis of the report is on the provision of therapy, the case it makes is relevant to the provision of all forms of psychological support. The best outcome would be for all providers, including practitioner psychologists, to come together with commissioners to develop LTPs for whole systems solutions.’

Tim Atkin, Chair Elect of the Division of Clinical Psychology’s Faculty for Children, Young People and their Families, points out that the British Psychological Society has repeatedly made national representations that improving our understanding of need is crucial to providing better, more appropriate provision. ‘The review itself cites a BPS publication “What Good Looks Like in Psychological Services for Children, Young People and their Families” which makes this very point. So we would encourage members and others to support the NSPCC petition, which calls on the Department of Health and NHS England to require all local areas to properly count abused children in need of mental health support.’ 

The British Psychological Society has also recently published a guidance document on the management of disclosures of non-recent (historic) child sex abuse. 


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