January 23, 2023
Urgent action needed to fix dysfunctional Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services – David Cullinane TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health, David Cullinane TD, has said that urgent action is needed to fix the dysfunctional Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) that is failing children and families.

Responding to the Mental Health Commission Report published today, Teachta Cullinane outlined four key priority areas where urgent action is needed.

Teachta Cullinane said:

“The Mental Health Commission review into CAMHS makes for difficult reading. Failure to properly invest in the service is having real, tragic consequences for these children, including hundreds of ‘lost’ children who were put on medication without any follow up care.

“Our children deserve action and a functioning mental health service. Urgent action is needed and there are several key steps that the government can and should take.

“Firstly, we need ringfenced funding for the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service. It needs a clear budget and accountability for that budget. 

“Sharing the Vision, the government’s mental health plan, has not been costed and there is no timeframe for implementation. 

“The heel-dragging must stop now and a clear funding plan must be put in place. Sinn Féin set out a multi-annual funding plan in our Alternative Budget for Health 2023 and the government must do the same.

“Secondly, the government must set national standards for monitoring the use of antipsychotic medications by children and young people. This should be part of new regulations under the Mental Health Act focused on regulating CAMHS. It is clearly needed to ensure that no more children are given strong medication and then forgotten about.

“Thirdly, we need a medium-term plan for expanding CAMHS to help young adults up to 25. This is international best practice, but currently we are letting children drop off a cliff edge in relation to services at 18. Adult mental health services are not resourced or the right place for young adults with emerging mental health difficulties.

“Fourthly, we need a serious workforce plan to deliver the services which our children deserve. The government has not trained enough mental health professionals, especially psychiatrists, or sufficiently supported those that are in place. 

“Like everything else in healthcare, this crisis has been caused by a failure to plan. CAMHS teams are woefully understaffed. Education and training places must be rapidly increased across further and higher education institutes to give us a pipeline for staff for our CAMHS teams.

“It is important that we don’t forget who this is about. This is about children with really serious mental health problems who need to be seen urgently and have been referred into services which, in many cases, don’t exist, or have extremely long waiting lists, or which are poorly staffed or poorly funded. This is an absolute disgrace that has put children in harm’s way. 

“They cannot access the services they need when they need them, and hundreds have been given medication without any follow up, as if that will solve their problems. It has likely made them worse, and families are suffering because of it.

“This system is failing children and families. A line must be drawn in the sand because enough is enough.”

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