Ministers have been urged to “go the extra mile” and commit to providing an extra £25 million to improve mental health care for children and young people.
The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC) says provision for vulnerable youngsters suffering from mental illness is already at “breaking point”, with waiting-times targets not being met and a fall in the number of specialist psychiatrists.
It is now calling on Health Secretary Shona Robison to use all £25 million of additional funding coming to Scotland for mental health provision to be used to improve services for young people.
Half of Scotland’s health boards are failing to meet the Scottish Government’s 18-week treatment time target for child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), the SCSC said.
The group, which includes charities, independent care providers and others, added that the number of young people waiting more than 13 weeks for help had increased from 20 in December 2013 to 226 in December 2014.
Meanwhile, just over half (51%) of vacancies for those dealing with child and adolescent psychiatry have been filled since 2011, with the overall number of specialist psychiatrists for the age group down by 14% between 2002 and 2013.
The SCSC also claimed rising numbers of young people were being cared for in non-specialist units, such as adult mental health wards or paediatric wards, and that there is no secure provision in Scotland for under-18s with mental health problems, meaning they have to be treated elsewhere.
Sophie Pilgrim, a member of the SCSC and director of the voluntary organisation Kindred Scotland, said: “A society should be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable citizens and at the moment mental health services in Scotland are at breaking point.
“Due to a lack of adequate provision, hundreds of vulnerable children and young people are being treated in unsuitable adult or paediatric wards, or being sent miles away from their families to England for treatment.
“There is also no secure inpatient provision in Scotland for those children and young people with mental health conditions.
“This is clearly a major concern for any organisation upholding the rights of the child in Scotland.”
She added: “Scotland aims to lead the way in promoting the wellbeing of children and this funding presents us with a momentous opportunity to rectify the situation and help those families that are in crisis.
“We urge that the Scottish Government takes this opportunity to go that extra mile and ensure that we have a range of mental health services available in Scotland for those who so vitally need it.”