Thousands of children have been left waiting for mental health treatment as the Scottish Government’s target for young people being treated within 18 weeks has been missed.
Scottish Labour revealed that 3,666 children waited longer than that over the last year. It said the figures show the scale of the SNP’s mismanagement of the NHS and reinforced the case for a school-based counsellor in every secondary school and a review of rejected referrals.
The Scottish Government say that a mental health link person is available for every school to access but it is not a specific job title and the role may be carried out by a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) clinician or another speciality such as primary care worker.
Kenny Graham from Falkland House School, member of campaigning group, the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition, described the results as “disappointing”.
He said: “These findings are certainly disappointing, with it being revealed that 14 councils in Scotland do not have a mental health link worker, and a further 12 do not hold any information on the role. Mental health link workers play a vitally important role in schools, spotting and addressing issues early on. Without these qualified professionals children and young people are often being referred to costly specialist CAMHS, when these issues could have been addressed much earlier on. Not only is this then contributing to long waiting times to access treatment, but the long wait often means the child or young person’s condition worsens considerably.
“We urge the Scottish Government to act now and implement a system of school-based counselling, an issue we have been campaigning on for some time now.”
Scottish Labour said it is focuing on the next generation of Scots as part of its summer campaign, For The Many.
Monica Lennon MSP said: “I am very sad for the 3,500 children and young people who have been parked on mental health waiting lists for several months. The warm words of SNP ministers are amounting to nothing for these youngsters and their families. Getting access to mental health treatment is vital to helping children and young people recover and carry on with their studies.”
Minister for Mental Health Maureen Watt said: “We take the mental health of our young people very seriously and the number of children and young people seen by mental health services within the target time has increased for three consecutive quarters. We have doubled the number of child and adolescent mental health service psychology posts and are investing an extra £150 million in mental health over five years.
“Our new Mental Health Strategy is committed to a review of Personal and Social Education in schools to ensure every child has access to any appropriate support, counselling, or pastoral guidance they may need and we will commission a review of rejected child and adolescent mental health service referrals.”