Thousands of children with mental health concerns on waiting lists for assessments

Children’s Rights Alliance expresses concern over impact of delays on young people

Some 2,250 children are waiting for specialist mental health treatment, according to the Children’s Rights Alliance. Photograph: iStock

Some 2,250 children are waiting for specialist mental health treatment, according to the Children’s Rights Alliance. Photograph: iStock

 

More than 7,000 children with mental health concerns are on waiting lists for community and psychology supports, according to latest figures.

These services, which focus on prevention, assessment and detection for children in difficulty, are considered vital in providing effective early intervention.

The figures are contained in the Children’s Rights Alliance’s annual report card on whether the Government is living up to pledges it has made to improve children’s welfare.

The group has awarded the Government a D-minus in the area of children’s mental health to reflect the numbers waiting for appointments.

In addition, it notes that some 2,250 children are waiting for specialist mental health treatment.

While there have been improvements in recent years, the alliance says children continue to be placed in highly inappropriate adult inpatient units.

The lowest grade it has awarded the Government is an F or fail in relation to child and family homelessness. This, it says, reflects the record number of young who were homeless or living in emergency accommodation last year.

Emergency

The alliance says the Government needs to recognise that child homelessness is a “national emergency” and that family hubs and other interim solutions provide only a sticking plaster to what is a bigger and more complex issue.

“To truly address this crisis, more public housing must be provided rather than over-relying on the private rented sector,” the alliance says.

The highest grade it gave the Government is an A-minus for promoting equality for LGTBI+ children and young people.

This reflects the fact that Ireland has led the world in introducing the first ever LGBTI+ strategy. It says this will help support this group of young people who often face prejudice and discrimination in their everyday lives.

It also awarded a B grade was awarded for children’s physical health, reflecting the enactment of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018.

The alliance says alcohol abuse is a “public health crisis” and the legislation is a long-awaited stride forward to protect children from alcohol harm and harmful parental drinking.

Overall, the alliance has given the Government a C grade for its record in living up to its promises to children.

This is a slight increase on last year’s C-minus and a significant improvement on the D-plus grade that was awarded in 2017.

Progress

Speaking at the launch of the report on Tuesday, Children’s Rights Alliance chief executive Tanya Ward said the higher grade acknowledged the Government’s steady progress in a number of areas.

“We hope that progress is set to continue next year, with the consideration of our immediate actions, in particular in priority areas such as housing and mental health, and supports and Traveller and Roma children which need more attention,” she said.

The alliance has also noted significant investment by Government in more affordable childcare which is says will help families who are crippled by childcare costs. It has given the Government a C+ grading in this area.

For example under the new scheme, a two-parent family with an annual take home pay of €30,000 and with two children under three will get a weekly subsidy of €220.

The introduction of two weeks paid parental leave for each parent in 2019 also received an improved B-minus grade for this area.

Response

In response, Minister for Children Dr Katherine Zappone welcomed the report’s acknowledgment of significant progress in key areas such as childcare and child protection.

“On childcare, 2019 will be a huge year with the start of the Affordable Childcare Scheme. In the coming days I will be giving updates on the roll-out. I welcome the fact that the 117 per cent increase in investment since 2015 is acknowledged with a C+ grading,” she said.

“All our children are entitled to live free from bullying, harassment and inequality. Our national LGBTI+ strategy is a world first and is a reality. The A- rating secured recognises the importance of this work. “