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25,000 abused and neglected Norfolk children 'sidelined' in mental health care, claims NSPCC

PUBLISHED: 00:00 09 August 2019 | UPDATED: 10:36 12 August 2019

Mental health of over 180,000 children in East of England in danger of being sidelined under NHS changes. Picture: Tom Hull Photography

Mental health of over 180,000 children in East of England in danger of being sidelined under NHS changes. Picture: Tom Hull Photography

Tom Hull Photography 2016

More than 25,000 abused and neglected children in Norfolk and Waveney could be sidelined by mental health services.

That is the fear of charity NSPCC, who are calling on the NHS to set out how it will prioritise the needs of vulnerable children and for more transparency over how mental health services commissioning decisions are made.

But Norfolk health bosses say new arrangements will instead benefit children and nationally the NHS said there was no evidence children were in danger.

The NSPCC analysed the latest annual mental health plans published by NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs). The plans set out how they will care for children's mental health, and the charity found that across England 82pc were not properly planning for the needs of vulnerable children.

All five of Norfolk's CCGs - which cover an estimated 26,472 children who have been abused or neglected - were given an amber rating on a traffic light system.

This means while their plans had some mention of these children, much more needed to be done.

And the NSPCC warned the NHS could lose sight of the mental health needs of vulnerable children, as responsibility for commissioning decisions moves from individual CCGs to new regional NHS partnerships that cover much larger geographical areas.

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There are 152,987 children aged under 15 in Norfolk in total.

Evidence shows that children who have been abused or neglected are more likely to develop mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders or PTSD.

NSPCC head of policy Almudena Lara said: "Children who have lived through the trauma of abuse and neglect need all the support we can give them to help them recover.

"We know there are fantastic mental health services supporting lots of these children up and down the country. But it's not enough, and a system that's already struggling to properly plan for their mental health needs will render them all but invisible if action isn't taken now by NHS England.

"Millions more children could be affected unless the NHS ensures that vulnerable young people are explicitly recognised in the new commissioning arrangements."

A spokesman for Norfolk and Waveney sustainability and transformation partnership (STP) said: "We are transforming mental health services in Norfolk and Waveney so that both the county council and CCGs jointly commission services for children aged zero to 25. This will mean better sharing of data and information between agencies and, far from side-lining any children or young people, will give us a far better understanding of the needs of children and young people in our area, so that we can commission the right services.

"As part of this work our Norfolk Trauma Forum has secured funding to develop the skills and knowledge of those working with children and young people, so they can get the right help to those who have faced adverse childhood experiences. Alongside this, the STP successfully bid for government funding for new mental health support teams in schools and the county council is looking to develop specialist bases in schools to support those who have faced trauma."

An NHS England spokesman added: "As NSPCC themselves state, their report does not look at the quality of services and there is absolutely no evidence that children's mental health is in danger; in fact, more children than ever before are receiving excellent mental health care. While there is further to go, the NHS has committed to treating an extra 345,000 children by 2023, is developing new services to treat 6,000 highly vulnerable children and has today written to local health groups reminding them their plans should reflect the needs of the most vulnerable children."

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