School mental health referrals to NHS trust in Barking and Dagenham up 39pc

NELFT's headquarters in Rainham. Picture: Ellie Hoskins

NELFT's headquarters in Rainham. Picture: Ellie Hoskins - Credit: Archant

The number of pupils referred by their schools to Barking and Dagenham’s mental health trust has risen by over a third since 2014.

North East London NHS Foundation Trust (NELFT) received 2,064 requests for professional help for troubled youngsters in 2016-17, up 39 per cent from 2014-15 (1,486), according to figures published Monday. These included children as young as one and two years old.

Overall, 4,814 referrals were made over the three-year period — more than four each day.

The figures, obtained under Freedom of Information laws by the NSPCC, show NHS child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) in London and the south east recorded 48,394 referrals in the last four years, two-thirds of which were from primary schools. By comparison, primary schools accounted for half of referrals to NEFLT (47pc).

The charity blames stretched support services for shunting vulnerable children for forcing voluntary and community services like Childline to keep plates spinning amid rising workloads.

“Our research shows schools are increasingly referring children for specialist mental health treatment, often when the child is at crisis point,” said the helpline’s London manager, Wendy Robinson.

“Childline plays a vital role in supporting children with their mental health, and many turn to us when they are struggling to get access to specialist treatment. Early counselling from Childline could also help relieve the pressure on CAMHS.

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“We have seen a marked increase in counselling about mental health, and fully expect it to continue. It is vital that Government urgently provides more funding to Childline and help children who don’t have access to support elsewhere.”

NELFT, which has been contacted for comment, refused to release referral figures for 2017-18, claiming such a disclosure would prejudice “commercial interests”.

The published figures do, however, reveal 1,122 primary school pupils were referred in 2016-17, almost as many as the previous two years combined.

“I suffer with anxiety and panic attacks and find it difficult to leave the house or get out of bed,” a 17-year-old girl told Childline.

“I was referred to CAMHS but I was on a waiting list for 8 months and during that time my anxiety got worse so I never went because I was too scared.”