BPS supports new NSPCC campaign 'It's Time'

The campaign launched this week by the NSPCC calling for access to therapy for abused children to be prioritised in the NHS has been welcomed by the British Psychological Society.

The campaign, It’s Time, comes as a new NSPCC survey reveals serious inadequacies when it comes to accessing mental health support for abused children. It states that half of professionals working with abused children say the criteria for accessing local NHS mental health services are too tight, resulting in children struggling to access vital help.

Dr Oliver Sindall, from BPS Faculty for Children, Young People and their Families, said:  “Whether a child is referred to our services for anxiety, depression, trauma, or simply challenging behaviour, all too often experiences of abuse or neglect are at the core of their distress. All clinical psychologists working with children and families struggle with the barriers of long waiting lists, reductions in spending and the resulting high thresholds for offering assessment and therapy to so many young people.

“With this struggle comes the harsh reality that a large number of these children are not receiving the support they need. Therefore, as a profession we must support the vision of the NSPCC’s ‘It’s Time’ campaign. Our expertise and varied roles, across all agencies, give us a unique opportunity to play a vital part in the NSPCC’s priorities to increase therapeutic support, improve the evidence base for interventions and set a clear vision for the commissioning of services for abused children.”

The survey of more than 1,000 professionals, including psychologists, GPs, teachers and social workers, found that:

• nine in ten of the professionals surveyed felt services were inadequate for abused children.
• more than three quarters of professionals said it has become more difficult to access therapeutic services in the last five years.
• more than half of the survey respondents said waiting times had been a barrier to support over the last six months.
• 37 per cent of respondents described cuts in available services.

Abused and neglected children are often referred by GPs and local authorities to CAMHS. Not all abused children will have a diagnosable mental health problem but many will still need therapeutic support to help them deal with their trauma and reduce the chance of chronic mental health conditions developing in the future. If children don’t receive the right kind of help and support following a disclosure of abuse, the damage can last a lifetime and include post-traumatic stress disorder, depression or suicidal thoughts in adulthood.

More than half (53 per cent) of the 1,256 respondents said in the last six months waiting times had been a barrier to support from local CAMHS. The same percentage blamed therapy thresholds for causing problems getting help for the children they worked with and over a third (37 per cent) described cuts in available services.

BPS President Professor Jamie Hacker Hughes said: “The BPS has previously raised significant unease in reductions in staffing in CAMHS services, particularly of more highly skilled professionals. We fully support this campaign and call on the Government and those who commission services to increase what is currently available to support this most vulnerable group of children as an urgent priority. Getting help to these children earlier is vital and can prevent longer term damage to the lives of those who have survived the horror of abuse.”

The NSPCC campaign, It’s Time, aims to raise awareness of the barriers abused children face when seeking help to rebuild their lives – and calls for improved access to therapeutic services that meet their specific needs. The campaign wants initially to rally at least 100,000 members of the public to its cause. Supporters are being asked to exert pressure on MPs and ministers, in order to get funding prioritised for this vulnerable and forgotten group. 

Last year the BPS Faculty for Children, Young People and their Families published a free Review that helped to understand why children develop mental health problems and what can be done to help. ‘What Good Looks Like in Psychological Services for Children, Young People and their Families’ is a practical handbook providing guidance on the provision of good quality psychological services and the active roles that psychologists and other mental health practitioners can play. The Review can be downloaded for free from the BPSShop.