Mental health of nearly 14,000 children across Shropshire 'in danger of being sidelined'
Nearly 14,000 children across Shropshire who have been abused or neglected could be sidelined by mental health services as a result of changes being introduced by the NHS, according to research by a children's charity.
The NSPCC is now calling on NHS England to set out how it will prioritise the needs of vulnerable children and for more transparency over how mental health services commissioning decisions are made.
The charity analysed the latest annual mental health plans published by NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs).
The plans set out how they will care for children’s mental health, and the NSPCC found that 82 per cent across England were not properly planning for the needs of vulnerable children.
Across Shropshire and the West Midlands it means that an estimated 157,074 children who have been abused or neglected are living in an area with inadequate plans for their mental health needs, or with no plans for their care at all.
The NSPCC estimates there are 8,458 abused or neglected children in the area covered by Shropshire CCG, and 5,481 in Telford and Wrekin.
The charity examined each CCG’s local transformation plan to find out the extent to which they recognise that some groups of vulnerable children have heightened mental health needs; how data on the needs of vulnerable groups locally informs service design and delivery and whether additional services targeted to support vulnerable children have been established.
In the charity’s analysis, each plan produced by CCGs across England was given a ‘traffic light’ rating for its understanding of the needs of vulnerable children.
For 2018/19, Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin CCGs' plans were both rated 'amber', with the NSPCC saying there was some recognition but action was needed to improve the plans.
A spokesperson from the CCGs said: “The Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin CCGs welcome the review by NSPCC. Their report recognises the number of vulnerable young people in our communities that need access to good support and help.
"The Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin Children & Young Peoples Local Transformation Plan (CYP LTP) is an iterative plan and is regularly reviewed to ensure we are focusing on current need. The CCGs will endeavour to review provision in light of the NSPCC report to ensure services remain fit for purpose and that the needs of vulnerable children in Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin continue to be met.”
While some progress has been made since 2015/16, the NSPCC is warning that this could be undermined and the NHS could lose sight of the mental health needs of vulnerable children, as responsibility for commissioning decisions moves from individual CCGs to new regional NHS partnerships that cover much larger geographical areas.
Existing evidence shows that children who have been abused or neglected are more likely to develop mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders or post-traumatic stress disorder.
NSPCC head of policy, Almudena Lara said: “Children who have lived through the trauma of abuse and neglect need all the support we can give them to help them recover.
“We know there are fantastic mental health services supporting lots of these children up and down the country.
"But it’s not enough, and a system that’s already struggling to properly plan for their mental health needs will render them all but invisible if action isn’t taken now by NHS England.
“Millions more children could be affected unless the NHS ensures that vulnerable young people are explicitly recognised in the new commissioning arrangements.”
The NSPCC is now calling for a commitment from NHS England to put the needs of vulnerable children at the heart of its implementation of the NHS Long Term Plan.
The charity also wants greater accountability and oversight from NHS England, with more transparency from commissioners on how mental health services for children are funded and planned.
In 2015 the Government’s children and young people’s mental health task force published Future in Mind, a report setting out a new vision for children and young people’s mental health in England.
The Government committed to spend £1.4bn over five years, from 2016 up to 2021, to improve children’s mental health services.
CCGs were required by Government to produce a local transformation plan setting out how they would improve children’s mental health in their area, and to include the needs of vulnerable groups in these plans. Government has stipulated that CCGs must update those plans annually.
Some CCGs produced their own plan, while others teamed up to produce a joint plan for their area.