Waiting times for children’s mental health services illustrates a further crisis in children’s health, says McAllister

Alliance Health spokesperson, Nuala McAllister MLA, was speaking following the publication of the latest quarterly waiting time statistics for the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) in Northern Ireland, showing that 52% of children on the list are having to wait for more than 9 weeks for an assessment.

Nuala McAllister

The North Belfast MLA said: “I am extremely concerned to read these statistics. That the number of children waiting for a CAMHS assessment has been increasing since the pandemic should be a cause of concern for everyone.

“The Healthy Happy Minds pilot project, which began in 2021 and coincided with an increase in waiting times, was a great example of an early intervention program and cross-departmental collaboration between the Health and Education sectors for the benefit of our children and young people.

“Unfortunately, this project was axed in 2023 due to budgetary pressures and there are currently no replacement primary school counselling services available. This leaves children with little option but to join the CAMHS waiting list, putting more pressure on an already struggling service.

“Early intervention should always be the priority as a way of protecting children from the harmful impact of mental ill-health, whilst inevitably saving money by reducing the need for more complex mental health services. However, we also need to ensure that anyone on these lists is seen in good time.

"I am looking forward to seeing the details of the Department of Health's budget and spending plan to understand how the Minister intends to fund and implement the Mental Health Strategy, with a specific focus on addressing the harmful impact of children's mental ill-health.”