Mental Health Support
20 Mar 2024

A recent report from the Children’s Commissioner, Dame Rachel de Souza, finds that 305,000 or 32 per cent of children and young people referred to CAMHS in 2022-23 received support, while 270,300 (or 28 per cent) were still waiting for support 

The Children’s Commissioner for England, Dame Rachel de Souza, has published a report using data from NHS England, showing that nearly one million children and young people – 949,200 - were referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in 2022-23, which is equivalent to eight per cent of the 11.9 million children in England. 

Of those referred, 32 per cent – or 305,000 – had received support; 28 per cent (270,300) were still waiting for support; and 39 per cent (372,800) had their referral closed before accessing support.  

Photo of teenage boy with earphones

For the 305,000 children and young people who accessed support, the average waiting time was 35 days, but in the last year nearly 40,000 children experienced a wait of over two years for support, said the report, called Children’s Mental Health Services 2022-23. 

The most commonly known referral reason for children and young people was anxiety, followed by reaching crisis, which “demonstrates the severity of need many children are presenting with,” said the report. 

The Children’s Commissioner for England, Rachel de Souza, commented: “For children and young people, two years can be a significant portion of their young lives, so the long waiting times experienced by some children in this report can feel agonisingly long. Children are still waiting far too long to access the support they need, and for too many children the speed at which they can access support is still down to the luck of where they live. With the right early support, many children would not need access to mental health services... 

“Many problems we see in children’s mental health services stem from local and national leaders failing to prioritise children’s mental health. We need fresh, long-term thinking when it comes to children’s mental and emotional health and wellbeing.” 

The Children’s Commissioner has called for: 

  • A bold, strategic 10-year plan for children and young people’s mental health, to ensure fewer children experience mental ill health and that all who do receive excellent care. 

  • Reduced waiting times for mental health services, so no child is turned away from mental health support or waits more than four weeks for an initial assessment for their mental health needs, and no more than four weeks after that to receive support. 

  • Support for children who do not reach the threshold for CAMHS, including through Early Support Hubs, mental health support teams and from school counsellors. 

  • Reforms to the Mental Health Act, so that it is fit for the 21st century and accelerates the decrease in the number of children being inappropriately detained and restrained in mental health hospitals – with a view to supporting children at home or in the community. 

If you're a young person who is struggling with your mental health or you are a parent of a young person who is finding things difficult, find local sources of support on the Pathfinder website.

Find out about Pathfinder services for under 18s.