Mental health reforms failing children who've been abused

1 in 3 local plans ignore services for children who've experienced abuse

Our new research shows that government reforms to children’s mental health services are paying little attention to improving support for children who've been abused or neglected.

Our campaign, It’s Time, has shown that these children are frequently denied the help they need until they reach crisis point. This means they may be left to face depression, anxiety and even suicidal thoughts without professional help.

But many plans drawn up by local NHS commissioners fail to set out how the government’s £1.4bn investment in children’s mental health services will benefit these vulnerable children.

Our analysis of published Local Transformation Plans – plans that local NHS commissioners are required to action under government’s initiative – shows scant focus on improving support for children who have experienced abuse or neglect.

Our findings

  • only 14% of plans considered the needs for support of all children who've experienced abuse or neglect
  • 1 third of plans fail to mention any provision of services for children who've experienced abuse or neglect
  • this means 3.89 million children (34% of children in England) live in an area where the local plan doesn't mention services for children who've experienced abuse or neglect.

A missed opportunity to support children

Many of the remaining plans lack the detail and clarity necessary to identify which areas are planning additional services for this group of children and which merely refer to existing provision.

Despite increasing numbers of children disclosing abuse, and a sharp rise in recorded sexual offences against children in recent years, the majority of the current plans are a missed opportunity to ensure children get support to rebuild their lives after abuse.

Peter Wanless, CEO

Peter Wanless, CEO of NSPCC said:
"Talking about local NHS plans may not sound exciting but it's essential because they are at the heart of the Government's promise to tackle the growing crisis in child mental health.

"These plans determine how money is spent locally. So it's vital they include services for children who've suffered abuse and neglect, as this one of the biggest causes behind them developing mental health problems.

"However, to plan services the NHS needs to know how many children are being abused and need mental health support, but remarkably they don't. This information simply isn't recorded and it's having devastating consequences.

"We know that help at the right time can prevent abused children developing mental health problems or stop them from getting worse. But often it's only when children reach rock bottom, regularly self-harming or feeling suicidal, that the services they need so desperately open up to them.

"This isn't acceptable. Society has a responsibility to help these children get their lives back on track. So today we are demanding that the Government finds out how many children have been abused so they can get the support they need."