Cabinet to respond to mental health scrutiny report

Scrutiny councillors have brought the concerns of parents to the fore in an inquiry into children’s mental health services. The inquiry heard how parents of children with mental health issues are often at their wits’ end about how to get help, with confusion about the role and scope of assessment and treatment services available.

The scrutiny inquiry focussed on how the Council can work with health and other partners to reduce demand for specialist child & adolescent mental health services, which are provided across the South and South West Wales region by the Health Board.

This piece of scrutiny has raised awareness and understanding of the problems in this area, and attracted a lot of media coverage. Councillor Mary Jones, who chaired the Inquiry Panel, said: ‘This has been a very difficult and emotive inquiry. Referrals to the Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) have doubled in the last four years, but we found confusion amongst professionals and parents about who was eligible for specialist help, what the criteria was, and how the referral process worked. We’ve heard some difficult stories. A lot of parents are at their wits end, which is extremely sad. We hope that our inquiry will help make things simpler so that children can receive the right assessment and treatment that is necessary, before things get worse. This need for mental health support services is set to continue to grow and to meet this demand it is clear that things need to be done differently; and decisions taken at the top about how resources are used need greater input from professionals and parents.’

The difference between mental health issues and mental illness was one that was adding to the confusion as the CAMHS Service is quite a small specialist service, and its purpose is not well understood. The danger, according the scrutiny report, was that many problems were going unnoticed and never referred for specialist help. The Panel felt there was a distinct gap in services for children and young people with mental health needs who were not diagnosed with an illness but who could benefit from help.

The scrutiny report, with its conclusions and recommendations, was presented to Cabinet on 20 October. The report makes 16 recommendations. Amongst the things that the report calls for is:

  • clarification from CAMHS about the services it provides, referrals and eligibility, and for that to be clearly shared with other agencies
  • a training programme for education staff in collaboration with CAMHS so that issues can be identified at an early stage
  • parents and carers of affected children being involved in the planning of CAMHS services
  • the creation of an access and information point for worried parents to give advice and screen new referrals
  • monitoring of referral rates and waiting times for those eligible to receive help

Working with relevant partners, Cabinet is expected to respond to the recommendations in December. The Panel will follow up on action and the impact made from this work during 2017.

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