MORE THAN 50 posts in the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHs) remain unfilled, according to recent figures provided by the HSE which also show an increase in the demand for services and ever growing waiting lists.
The figures for March show there were 1,259 referrals of children accepted by community mental health teams.
Though 232 development posts were allocated to CAMHs from the 2012 and 2013 investment – so technically, the money should be there to hire people – the HSE said 54 of these are still vacant, claiming it is working with local teams to ensure they are filled.
It comes at a time when demand for the services provided are on the rise with a ten per cent increase in referrals accepted in March and a further 18 per cent increase in the number of new cases seen when compared to the same period last year.
Last Friday, Childline also revealed it had been contacted over 664,000 times by children seeking help in 2013 and said the number of times its services were contacted about mental health was a cause for concern.
The waiting list for children has also grown to 2,943 – up eight per cent on March last year. The HSE said some 72 per cent of referrals were offered a first appointment and seen within three months.
A recent report from CAMHs found that children in Dublin are most likely to be seen within three months while the HSE South list had the highest number of children waiting longer than 12 months to see a therapist.
Catherine Joyce, Head of Advocacy for children’s charity Barnardos, told TheJournal.ie that her organisation has encountered CAMHs services which have “closed their waiting lists to anyone except the most urgent and serious cases”.
“This has meant services being denied to children who, in our opinion, are in dire need of mental health support and who are being put at risk by the lack of access to the services,” she said.
In one case, a child of 9 who had been expelled from school because his behaviour was increasingly putting himself and others at risk was denied a service because he did not meet the threshold for intervention and the waiting list was otherwise closed.
‘Children and families are suffering’
Joyce said the staffing levels in HSE mental health services for children and adolescents are just 44 per cent of the level recommended by the ‘A Vision for Change‘ report published by the expert group on mental health back in 2006.
The HSE figures were provided to TD Thomas Broughan who said he was concerned about the increase in waiting times for children referred to CAMHs to obtain an appointment.
He said the increased demand is “particularly worrying” in light of the HSE’s admission that only 178 of the 232 posts have been filled. “It appears that the CAMHS are under serious pressure and children and families are suffering because of long delays in accessing vital mental health services,” he said.
The HSE did not respond to a request for comment on action being taken to fill the vacant posts.