Children’s Commissioner | April 2019 |Over a third of local areas in England reduce real terms spending on low level children’s mental health services
The Children’s Commissioner has published a report today (Wednesday 10 April) that looks at the amount spent on “low-level” mental health support. These are preventative and early intervention services for treating problems like anxiety and depression or eating disorders, for example services provided by school nurses or counsellors, drop-in centres or online counselling services.
The report highlights variations between between areas in how much funding is available: the top quarter of local areas spent at least £1.1 million or more, while the bottom 25 % spent £180,000 or less. The overall total spending figure of £226 million
includes a small number of very high spending areas masking a larger proportion of low spending areas.
The report identifies a regional variation on low level mental health spend:
In the financial year 2018/19, reported per child spend on low-level mental health services was higher in London and the North East, and lower in the East Midlands, the East and the South East. In London, local authority spending per child was £17.88 per child, compared to only £5.32 per child in the East of England. CCG spend per child is highest in the North of England (£12.76 per child) and lowest in the Midlands & East (£5.83 per child). Spend per child in predominantly urban areas was slightly higher than in more rural areas.
Although the total spend on low-level mental health services across all areas in England increased by 22% between 2016/17 and 2018/19 in cash terms, and by 17% in real terms, over a third of areas around the country still saw a real-terms fall in spending – with nearly 60% of local authorities seeing a real-terms fall. Given the focus on improving access to children’s mental health, these reductions are concerning.
The report recommends that the government increase its focus on local spending on early access support for children with mental health problems, and that it repeat this data gathering exercise to monitor what progress has been made.
There should also be more pressure on LAs and the NHS to work together to ensure that each area has a joined-up plan to support children who do not require specialist care, and those areas which are reducing funding must be held to account (Source: Children’s Commissioner).
Press release: Over a third of local areas in England reduce real terms spending on low level children’s mental health services
Report: Early access to mental health support
Early access to mental health support technical report
In the news:
BBC News Children’s mental health services ‘postcode lottery’
The Guardian Children who need help with mental health face postcode lottery – study