The CAMHS Green Paper – An update

19 October 2018 - by Kevin Kibble, CEO of nurtureuk

This month, a new report by the Education Policy Institute found that referrals to children’s mental health services in England had increased by 26% over the last five years, but nearly one in four were rejected. Referrals were most often rejected when the condition was not deemed serious enough for specialist treatment, though many of these children were dealing with severe trauma or complex needs. It is increasingly impossible to ignore that children’s mental health services are at a crisis point.

In December 2017, the government published its long-awaited green paper on transforming children and young people’s mental health (CAMHS) provision, followed by a three-month consultation. The green paper puts forward proposals to increase leadership on CAMHS in schools by appointing a designated mental health lead in every school and increasing provision of ‘mental health support teams’ linked to groups of schools and colleges. It states an ambition to decrease waiting times for children’s mental health services, and to set up a ‘national partnership’ to improve mental health services for 16-25 year olds.

Since its publication, the CAMHS Green Paper has been critiqued across the education and health sectors for not going far enough and missing opportunities to truly transform the system. A report by the House of Commons Health and Education Committees reviewing the green paper’s proposals found that school leaders and experts were concerned at the lack of action in a number of areas, including the transition to adult mental health services, the impact of social media, and on addressing demographic and geographic inequalities in CAMHS needs.

Many have also pointed out that new funding and training won’t reach the vast majority of areas for more than five years, leaving hundreds of thousands of young people unable to benefit from the proposals. The government will trial elements of the proposals in ‘trailblazer’ areas in 2019, but a long-term roll-out plan has not yet been agreed. In its response to the green paper consultation, the government stated it would like the proposals to be operational in ‘a fifth to a quarter’ of the country by the end of 2022/23.

The government has promised it will announce the first ‘trailblazer’ areas next month, and has sought to reassure the sector that significant resources are being invested into designing training for the new mental health support teams. Officials have also emphasised that lessons learned from trailblazer areas will be fully integrated into the national roll-out.

To begin addressing the crisis in children’s mental health, the government will need to recognise the fragmentation within the mental health workforce, ensuring that newly proposed roles will function well as part of a whole-systems approach. It also needs to devote increased attention and support to the most vulnerable young people, including those in alternative provision or at risk of being excluded.

Nurtureuk will continue to engage with key stakeholders across the sector on the green paper’s proposals and fight for better outcomes for children and young people.