Youth Mental Health ‘Postcode Lottery’

Children in the East of England have the least money spent on their mental health care in the country and some are even having to threaten suicide to fight their way into treatment.

That was the finding of a study by the children’s commissioner who warned youngsters in need of low-level treatment face a “postcode lottery” when trying to get help.

Just £5.32 is spent per head on children in the east of England, the lowest in England, compared to the highest of £17.88 per head in London.

Low-level mental health services provide preventative and early intervention support for problems such as anxiety, depression and eating disorders.

The children’s commissioner, Anne Longfield said: “Those who are accepted for treatment often have to wait months for help, children have even told me they had to threaten to take their own life before they managed to access treatment.”

In Norfolk and Waveney the NHS and county council combined spent £9.08 per head in 2016/17 but this rose to £11.97 per head for 2018/19. A spokesman for the Norfolk and Waveney Sustainability and Transformation Partnership said an additional £1.3m had been put into eating disorders.

The spokesman said: “We completely agree with the children’s commissioner that there needs to be even more focus on helping children and young people earlier, to prevent more serious health problems from developing. That’s why we recently started work to transform children and young people’s mental health services within the Sustainability and Transformation Partnership. This brings together all of those working across mental health in Norfolk and Waveney so that we can create a joined-up system that delivers the very best for our children.”
However Mrs Longfield said: “This report reveals for the first time the postcode lottery facing the increasing number of children suffering from low-level mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.”

She said it was “extremely worrying” that areas were reducing real-terms spending on “vital services”. An NSPCC spokesperson for the east of England said: “We cannot underestimate the impact this is having on young people in the east of England”.