The UK has a world-class public sector, education is good, and the NHS is outstanding. But one area that consistently seems to let young people down is those who get stuck in-between social care and Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS).
In our austerity climate there have been cuts to both children’s social and the CAMHS service. In addition both services are locally using more agency staff to cover the current gaps they have within their teams. This certainly provides a lack of consistency for young people and their families, but I believe that the problem is not solved by more money, and capacity staffing. Simply pouring additional resource into a dysfunctional system would not automatically produce the best results for our vulnerable children and young people. Instead it is time to consider a radical overhaul of how, when and by whom child protection and statutory mental health services are provided.
Too often when a child is suspected of having mental health concerns such as depression, suicide, ADHD, on the ASD spectrum then social care, often believe it is the responsibility of CAMHS to take the lead with the family. Yet CAMHS, often rightly, will point out that whilst the mental health concerns has a significant impact there are other major factors at play in the life of the young person. Instead of two agencies working together to support a young person and their family they spend their time blaming cuts on the lack of staff and resources and spend meetings with other professionals passing the buck as to why they can not help the young person.
All this does is lead to a situation where a young person who is on the border of a Tier 2 to 3 threshold is propelled to the top end of Tier 3 if not into Tier 4 as no agency takes responsibility to support and invest in the young person and their family.
I can think of several families that I’ve worked with for whom this tension between social care and CAMHS has actually worsened the situation, and certainly not helped the young person.
I sit in meetings where I want to stop and shout: “Enough is enough!” Surely we can find a way to do something between us to support this young person and their family.
As is often the case though in a large organisation the staff at the meetings don’t have the power to be able to change the situation – what we need is county managers and health commissioners working together for the benefit of young people and their families and enabling their staff to do the same.