Work is urgently needed to support services in communities across Scotland
Charities have warned that cuts to council budgets across Scotland have put increasing pressure on childrens’ mental health services.
MSPs were told on Tuesday morning that more work is urgently needed to support emerging services in communities across Scotland but that the continuing pressure on statutory services is great.
The Scottish Parliament’s Health, Social Care and Sport Committee heard from a number of campaigners and experts on the current challenges facing mental health support providers both locally and on a national level.
Last year the Scottish Government announced plans to double the budget for community based mental wellbeing services for children and young people to £30 million.
Alex Cumming, assistant director of delivery and development at Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH), said there are some exciting developments in community-based adolescent mental health services.
Other groups noted and welcomed the funding, but warned the impact of this will not be known for some time yet.
Mr Cumming said: “From what we can see a large number of those services are still very much in the implementation phase. Therefore, we don’t know the impact yet.
“The big thing for us is how we are marketing these new services - particularly to our new colleagues within primary care as well. If all these things are not connected we’re not going to make best use of these resources.”
Joanne Smith, policy and public affairs manager at NSPCC Scotland, also welcomed the government’s commitments around community mental health services, saying ministers should be questioned on what has been learned since the current strategy was implemented.
She questioned whether we can be confident that young people are receiving timely support, warning the NSPCC’s data would suggest this is not yet the case.
She said that her organisation’s research in both 2013 and 2020 has shown a decline in the availability of community support - provided by both the third sector and in statutory services.
Ms Smith said: “We know that children are contacting our counsellors sharing their distress about the inability to access support, about the long gaps between any support that is available, about the disillusion that comes with a decision that their criteria isn’t sufficient to warrant support.
“It sends a strong message to children about how we value their wellbeing. There’s much to be done.”
Ms Smith underlined that one key reason for this has been the continued cuts to local authority funding in recent years.
She said: “CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) is of course one element of a system of support around children and families. We know that that wider support system has been undermined by cuts to local authority budgets.
“I think a critical first step is understanding what capacity exists locally within our systems.
“Find out what the strengths and weaknesses are within our systems so that we can ensure that the investment that is made available is targeted accordingly to make sure we can deliver the best outcomes for children, babies and families.”