Over 1 million children could be sidelined by NHS mental health plan changes

Children who have been abused or neglected are more likely to struggle with mental health issues including anxiety, depression and PTSD

Young girl sat on a sofa looking away from the cameraAn estimated 1.3 million children in England who've experienced child abuse or neglect are living in an area with inadequate plans for their mental health needs, NSPCC research suggests.1

We analysed the latest annual mental health plans published by NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups2 and found that 4 out of 5 plans weren't planning properly for the needs of vulnerable children.3

While some progress has been made since 2015/16, this could be undermined by commissioning decisions being made by new regional NHS partenerships that cover much larger geographical areas. This could lead to the NHS losing sight of the mental health needs of vulnerable children.

What we're calling for

We're calling on NHS England to set out how it'll prioritise the needs of vulnerable children and for more transparency over how mental health services commissioning decisions are made, including:

    • a commitment from NHS England to put the needs of vulnerable children at the heart of its implementation of the NHS 'Long Term Plan'
    • greater accountability and oversight from NHS England, with more transparency from commissioners on how mental health services for children are funded and planned
    • decisions about what mental health services to provide around the country for children to be based on a detailed assessment of local needs, which includes specific reference to vulnerable children. 

Worried about a child?

If you're worried about a child or young person, you can contact the NSPCC helpline for support and advice for free - call us on 0808 800 5000 or contact us online.

Children can contact Childline any time to get support themselves.

Get support

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...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."


  1. 1.This estimate was extrapolated by taking rates of all forms of maltreatment from Radford, L. et al. (2011)Child abuse and neglect in the UK today

  2. 2. 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, 74% were rated amber, 2% were rated red, and 6% did not publish an updated plan.  18% of plans were rated green, up from 14% in 2015/16, and the proportion of plans rated red has dropped from 37% to 2% in the same time period.

  3. 3.The plans set out how they will care for children’s mental health, and the NSPCC found that 82% were not properly planning for the needs of vulnerable children.