Children’s mental health services face postcode lottery, warns new report

12 April 2019

Children in need of ‘low-level’ mental health services – vital preventative and early intervention services for problems such as anxiety, depression or eating disorders are facing a postcode lottery. So found an investigation by the Children’s Commissioner for England.


The new report warns of huge variations between available funding, with the top quarter of local areas spending at least £1.1 million or more, and the bottom quarter spending £180,000 or less. 

In London, local authority spending per child was £17.88 per child, compared to only £5.32 per child in the East of England, found the report.

Overall, it said that £226 million is being spent on low-level mental health services such as support provided by school nurses or counsellors, drop-in centres or online counselling services. That equates to just over £14 per child.

This postcode lottery comes at a time when the Government has made more funding available for children’s mental health nationally due to the number of children in need increasing over the last decade. 

Despite more money being spent than in the past, the Children’s Commissioner report highlights that the rate of improvement is highly variable across the country and the increase in capacity is not keeping up with increased demand. 

In fact, a significant 37% of local areas saw a cut in funding, found the report, largely as a result of local authority spending. 

Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, says: “It is extremely worrying that a third of local areas in England are actually reducing real terms spending on these vital services.

“The children I speak to who are suffering just want to be able to talk to a counsellor about their worries and to be offered advice on how to stop their problems turning into a crisis.

“Local authorities are under huge financial pressure and many are doing a good job, but those who are spending barely anything on low-level mental health cannot continue to leave children to struggle alone.”

The investigation carried out by The Children’s Commissioner is the first time any organisation has collected data to show how much is being spent by areas in England on low-level mental health. 

Image credit | iStock




Author: Nicole Bains