“Whilst some recent progress has been made in improving access to mental health support for children and young people, today’s findings from the Children’s Commissioner shows how much pressure services are facing in the context of fast-growing need. An increase in the number of children and young people being turned away before starting treatment, and a rise in waiting times for the first time since the pandemic, are both symptoms of a system struggling to cope with rising demand.

Unfortunately, this gap in support can lead many to reach crisis point and consequently needing support from inpatient mental health services. As the report highlights, issues with the quality of data on inpatient settings makes it tricky to get a comprehensive view of the number of those receiving care in these settings, the quality of care they receive and whether children’s rights are being upheld. The rapid review into inpatient mental health settings presents a timely opportunity to tackle these longstanding issues with data quality and collection. Whilst the immediate focus should be on securing basic information about children’s admissions and detentions, in the longer-term there should be an ambition for much more detailed and useful data to be recorded and reported to help drive improvement for children and young people.

Sadly, the insights gathered by the Children’s Commissioner shows how children and young people within inpatient settings can find them frightening places to be, separated from their friends and families, and often seeing and experiencing high levels of restraint. This, in itself, can be traumatic for children and young people. The reforms to the Mental Health Act are the first step in improving the care and treatment for those in mental health hospitals, and the Government must introduce a new Mental Health Bill at the earliest opportunity. However, we know further change is needed.  We support the Commissioner’s ambition that no child should end up needing to live in an inpatient hospital system, or any institution. We believe that a shift is needed towards the increased use of community-based provision and a reduced use of inpatient beds to ensure children and young people with the most complex needs receive support in a setting that is right for them.”

Sir Norman Lamb, Chair of the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition

download the Commissioner's report