SAMH comment on Programme for Government

3rd September 2019

Today’s Programme for Government shows that despite the Scottish Government’s repeated promises to improve Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), we’re still to see action on the ground.

Currently around one in five referrals to CAMHS are rejected. This figure has remained unchanged for years. An audit of these rejected referrals, published over twelve months ago, made recommendations for improvement which were accepted by the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport. Yet despite describing the current system as “completely unacceptable”, statistics published this morning show young people are still being rejected from these specialist services. Since the audit, more than seven thousand young people have been rejected from CAMHS. And three in ten young people are still waiting longer than the eighteen-week target to get access to CAMHS: despite this target being due for delivery in 2014.

SAMH has been challenging the Scottish Government to follow up on their promises to improve the system by committing to real action on the ground, so it’s disappointing that this has not been included in the Programme for Government.

Billy Watson, Chief Executive at SAMH, said,

“Many of today’s commitments on mental health are not new. Just this morning, new figures showed that one in five young people referred to specialist mental health services are still being rejected. This figure has remained unchanged for years.

Despite multiple announcements of new initiatives from Scottish Government, nothing has changed for young people who are asking for help. The time for speeches is over: we need clear, specific actions so that our young people get help when they need it”.

Specifically, SAMH would like to see the following progressed:

  • A timetable for urgent development and implementation of the community mental wellbeing services for 5-24 year olds, promised in the 2018-19 Programme for Government. This is described in today’s Programme for Government as a “community wellbeing service”, a subtle but major change. This new initiative must focus on the mental wellbeing of our young people, rather than a generic community service.
  • Plans to ensure that by this Christmas, at least 50% of those being rejected from CAMHS are being directly re-routed to another appropriate service.
  • Plans to ensure that by June 2020, every child referred gets routed to a service or support, which could include CAMHS, by implementing the multi-agency assessment system recommended in the report.

2019-20 must be a year of action so young people get help as soon as they need it, and this Programme for Government is a missed opportunity to move towards this. Our young people can’t wait any longer.