Children’s mental health investigation: Banburyshire primary school pupils suffering

Child abuse
Child abuse

In the second part of a special Banbury Guardian investigation about child mental health issues, we look into the problem in primary schools.

More than half of mental health referrals for children in Oxfordshire are primary school age – some as young as four.

Statistics show that 56 per cent of cases referred to Oxford Health (NHS) Trust are children aged 11 and under.

The scale of suffering has been highlighted by a new Banbury charity that is setting up a number of new initiatives help children and parents to stem the rising tide of anxiety, depression, self-harm and other disorders.

Our report on page three describes how mental health problems besetting primary children in the Banbury area have soared in the last eight years.

Sam Game, founder of Standing in the Gap, said: “The mental health services model is based on old statistics that said one child in ten has problems needing intervention.

“That figure has risen to 30 per cent and funding and staffing have not kept pace. Staff are good but they are overwhelmed and dealing with the severe end, not prevention.”

Mrs Game’s research shows the threshold for help for children has risen.

Youngsters’ problems are left and must worsen before they are accepted into the system – parents and teachers find waits for help are too long and leave youngsters suffering.

Mrs Game added: “Parents need to know what to do. They need the basic techniques and to know they need not panic or think entering the mental health system, will somehow affect their child’s long term opportunities. It won’t; it is entirely confidential.”

Standing in the Gap is providing parent education including helping them steer their children through the critical transition from primary to secondary school - a danger spot for mental health. Visit www.sitgap.org

Oxford Health said in a statement: “Thankfully, we are seeing a shift in people’s attitudes and young people in particular are more open about discussing the things affecting them.

“Because of this, Oxford Health is seeing greater demands than ever before and regrettably this has an impact on the wait times to access services and for treatment following an initial assessment.

“Our new model and approach to accessing CAMHS, for the first time in Oxfordshire, allows young people, families and carers to refer themselves via our new Single Point of Access (SPA) rather than wholly reliant on a professional, be that a GP or via a school.

“However, we do still encourage input from GPs, education and other professionals as they often have key information relating to the young person.

“At present, all referrals received in Oxfordshire CAMHS are triaged for appropriateness and, if accepted, an initial assessment is offered to examine their needs and set out a clear treatment plan.

“Where it’s felt a young person’s needs are high and they require urgent follow-up care, then this is prioritised and those individuals are seen within seven days. For emergency cases where a young person is in crisis we aim to see them within 24 hours.

“In cases where the urgency for follow-up care is not as high, we offer advice and strategies designed to help the young person and their families to better manage their mental health. We may, dependant on need, also link young people and families with our partners who may be better able to meet their needs.

“The wait from assessment to treatment commencing is dependent on the individual needs of the young person and intervention required.

“We start treatment at the point of assessment, when after assessing the needs of the young person and their family, we develop a care plan which lays out the best course of treatment and may include input from a range of clinicians, including psychiatry, psychology, psychotherapy or eating disorder services.

“Under the new model of care we have implemented in Oxfordshire, Oxford Health is now working with seven local charities who specialise in community-based services for young people, allowing us to offer access to more services than ever before, across a range of alternative settings.

“This new partnership working also allows for those who are not meeting the threshold for clinical CAMHS support to be signposted into services more appropriate to their needs.”