Public Accounts Committee

Mental health services for children and young people inquiry

Inquiry status: Concluded

Report published on 11 January 2019. Government response published April 2019.

Report published

Scope of the inquiry

Only a quarter of children and young people who require mental health support can access the services they need. Demand for these vital services is increasing: according to government estimates, the number of children and young people with a mental health condition is likely to be higher in 2018, compared to the last time data was collected in 2004.

The Government committed an additional £1.4 billion to children and young people’s mental health services between 2016-17 and 2020-21. It aims to treat an additional 70,000 children and young people per year between 2015-16 and 2020-21.

However, a recent National Audit Office report found that even if current Government initiatives are delivered as intended, there would remain significant unmet need for mental health services amongst young people. There has been slow progress on increasing the mental health workforce in England: planned NHS recruitment was below target by 1,000 staff in March 2018.

The report also found significant weaknesses and unreliability in government data. With the last estimate of children and young people with a mental health condition carried out in 2004, there is a risk that the Government does not understand how many need treatment. If new estimates, expected late 2018, are 50% higher than in 2004, the NHS would have to treat an additional 186,000 young people to meet their targets.

The Committee will question the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England on how additional funding for mental health services for children and young people has been spent. It will also examine the reliability of government data and whether NHS targets will meet the increasing demand for these services. 

Chair's comment

Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Meg Hillier MP, said:

“The Government’s ambition of parity between physical and mental health services has a long way to go.

The Government urgently needs to set out how departments, and national and local bodies, are going to work together to achieve its long-term ambition.”

Latest evidence

  • 31 Oct 2018 - Mental health services for children and young people - oral evidence | PDF version (PDF423 KB) HC 1593 | Published 06 Nov 2018

    Evidence given by Dame Professor Donna Kinnair, Acting Chief Executive and General Secretary, Royal College of Nursing, Saffron Cordery, Deputy Chief Executive, NHS Providers , Kadra Abdinasir, Strategic Lead, Children and Young People's Mental Health Coalition, and Anne Longfield, Children's Commissioner, Office of the Children's Commissioner for England; Sir Chris Wormald, Permanent Secretary, Department of Health and Social Care, Simon Stevens, Chief Executive, NHS England, Claire Murdoch, National Mental Health Director, NHS England, and Professor Ian Cumming, Chief Executive, Health Education England (at 3.30pm).

Next meeting(s)

There are currently no public meetings scheduled.

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