Hundreds of children in Calderdale waiting to access mental health services
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Figures released to the Halifax Courier under the Freedom of Information Act show that 270 children are waiting to access support - 128 of those children have been waiting more than a year and seven have been waiting more than two years.
One child had been on the waiting list for 836 days at the time of the response to the Courier's request.
Danny Hutchinson, Chief Executive Officer of Invictus Wellbeing, a children and young people's mental health charity based in Halifax, said: "Children and young people’s mental health has been in crisis for years, as reported by the Guardian before Covid-19 had even become part of national consciousness.
"However, Covid-19 has only exacerbated this and stretched an exhausted NHS, local authority and voluntary sector to the position we’re in now.
"The response from the FOI demonstrates this. Organisations like ours and NHS organisations are expected to work with larger amounts of young people year on year but there is no uplift or extension to funding and our funding has remained minimal since 2019.
"Nationally there are pilots and small pots of funding going out but these are limited in scope.
"There is also a programme to train up additional staff but then no further funding to retain them in our workforce and many opt to leave for higher paid opportunities in adult mental health.
"Looking at the figures, I can assume the majority of those waiting for mental health services are awaiting a neurodevelopmental assessment.
"There is such difficulty at the moment as ND queries to CAMHS and services like ours has increased exponentially over the last few years and schools don’t have the resources, capacity or specialist knowledge to support these young people.
"Families are therefore often signposted and referred to CAMHS who just don’t have the resources or capacity to deal with this influx.
"There is significant work going on in this area at the moment, with Calderdale aligning with ‘Right to Choose’ last year which means all Calderdale residents can choose an approved provider of Neurodevelopmental assessments.
"Hopefully this will add more capacity to the area in which we work and significantly reduce waiting times.
"In terms of young people accessing mental health support, our waiting lists are unfortunately beyond three months now and we can’t bring this down quickly enough due to funding and resources.
"We work really closely in partnership with many other great organisations and there is a lot of work going on in the background to transform the approach to children and young people’s mental health locally.
"We need to ensure youth and family voice and influence is at the forefront of any decisions being made and my charity, Invictus Wellbeing, will be fighting to ensure that happens.
"We would gladly welcome any comments, suggestions or input on how we can improve things and get waiting lists down from parents, carers and young people themselves.
"Whatever happens over the next five years, things will change and I sincerely hope, with more funding, stronger support for the voluntary sector from the NHS and local authority and young people’s voices at heart of any developments, it will be for the better."
Carol Harris, chief operating officer at South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust said: “Our longest waits in Calderdale are for neurodevelopmental assessments and we are sorry that some children and young people are having to wait for this assessment to take place. Our Trust is commissioned to provide neurodevelopment assessments in Calderdale but not treatment.
“Our CAMHS team also provide assessment and treatment for children and young people in Calderdale who experience mental health difficulties, where waiting times are a lot shorter. All children and young people who are waiting for CAMHS treatment will have received an assessment, and we prioritise children and young people who present to us as an increased risk, based on their clinical need.
“We recognise that any waiting can be difficult and we are working to ensure children and young people get the support that is right for them in a timely way. Sometimes the longest wait is impacted by the specific type of support a child needs, and the availability of a practitioner with specialist skills to provide it. We make sure that we keep in touch with children and their families while they are waiting, and provide sign posting to support whilst they wait.”