Gaps in provision

Siobhan Quinn writes.

Ellie Kerry’s October letter raising concerns about gaps in mental health provision for children really hit home with me. I have worked as a psychologist with adults for over ten years but recently volunteered with a charity in which homeless teenagers stayed at my home. It was my first time being directly involved with young people with mental health difficulties. I was really disappointed by the lack of mental health provision.

One 17-year-old had been constantly turned down by mental health services and charities; some saying that he didn’t have a mental health diagnosis, others saying he was too risky and some saying his home environment was to blame and they would not work with him as long as he lived there (but he did not meet the social services threshold to be taken into care). Within a short time of meeting him, it was clear that he was very traumatised, had significant anger issues and likely met a diagnosis for ADHD. However, when I attempted to get him support I was informed that he was ‘too old’ for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and there was a long waiting list for any adult services.

As Ellie outlined, there seem to be gaps at all levels of children’s mental health provision. I am concerned that many of these services appear to be based on exclusion rather than inclusion and only work with a minority of children and teenagers who require this support. This teenager has still been unable to access services and I fear he is quickly moving towards becoming caught up in the criminal justice system.

If mental health services had become involved when he was initially assessed possibly his path could have been very different. I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that psychology provision for vulnerable children and teenagers should be a priority and they should not be forgotten about. I echo Ellie’s call for the introduction of a stepped care system for children and teenagers.

Siobhan Quinn
Counselling Psychologist

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