Help & Advice by Hollie Burnham
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Amy Longfield, The Children’s Commissioner for England, has warned that adequate mental health services that can successfully meet the needs of all children who require treatment is still a decade away.

In a new report published today, she argues that whilst improvements have been made to children’s mental health services – in 2018/19 an extra £50 million in real terms was invested in specialist children’s community-based mental health services – significantly more is spent on adult services than for children.

Key findings of the report include:

  • The average waiting time for children to enter treatment is 53 days – down slightly from 57 days in 2017/2018
  • There is an ‘enormous’ postcode lottery, with spending varying significantly by area
  • On average, the NHS spends £225 for every adult and £92 for every child. Children account for 20 per cent of the population, but only 10 per cent of total mental health spending.

Ms Longfield said: “After years of Government announcements on children’s mental health, children’s mental health remains the poor relation of NHS spending, receiving a fraction of the money invested in adults.

Most areas are still spending less than 1% of their budget on children’s mental health services and the postcode lottery of care means some areas are years ahead of others in improving services.”

Mental Health Minister Nadine Dorries said: “Spending on children’s mental health is growing faster than spending overall in the NHS, backed by an extra £2.3 billion investment in mental health per year.”

She added: “We’re rolling out dedicated mental health support teams in schools and trialling four-week waiting times in the NHS, so they have quicker access to an increased range of support and treatment when they need it.”

Sources:, 30 January 2020, ‘Children ‘end up in care and custody’ over mental health’., 30 January 2020, ‘Decent mental health service for children is a decade away, warns Children’s Commissioner’.