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28 July, 2023 - Press Release 'IASW responds to the Mental Health Commission's report on Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services'

IASW statement following the publication of the MHC report on the review of the provision of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)

The Irish Association of Social Workers (IASW) welcomes the publication of the Mental Health Commission’s (MHC) most recent report on CAMHS, including its findings and recommendations.  We welcome the acknowledgement by the MHC that CAMHS staff ‘worked extremely hard to try to provide a good CAMHS service’ and that many young people attending services received excellent care and treatment given the limited resources. We are aware that this is not consistent across all services and that all children and young people do not have access to a timely, safe, effective, evidence based mental health service, as is their right.

The MHC report highlights that despite a number of HSE targeted improvements and investments in CAMHS, the ongoing shortfalls in the service remain a major concern and increase the risk to children and young people.

The MHC report findings are in keeping with the views of social workers working in CAMHS. We welcome the focus in the report on the need for significant investment in resources (including budget, staffing, digital infrastructure, and facilities), service quality and governance, including clinical governance, consistent adherence to CAMHS Operational Guidelines, and risk management. As social workers, we very much support the findings in relation to the need for improved equality of access for all young people who require access to CAMHS and the need for all services working with young people to do so in a more integrated way.

The MHC report’s recognition that CAMHS is part of a more extensive system of mental health service provision for young people and the call for oversight of all aspects of the mental health services for young people is very welcome. The need for a child-centred, integrated approach reflects the social work values of people-centred care and we call for the integration of Primary Care, Community Disability Network teams and CAMHS whereby service delivery is timely and needs-driven, recognising that adequate resourcing for all of these services is integral to progressing this.

The mental health needs of children who may be particularly vulnerable or at-risk, such as children in care and refugees, is an area that requires particular attention and where we as social workers can support the HSE and other stakeholders in designing, developing and delivering services to meet the access and mental health needs of such children and young people.

IASW agrees that any improvement in CAMHS will require a coordinated, systems-oriented response, which is fully funded and resourced. We recognise the need to have clear governance lines where there is clear responsibility and accountability at every level of the service. We welcome the HSE announcement that the new Assistant National Director for Child and Youth Mental Health is due to commence in September and the recent appointment of a National Clinical Lead for Child and Youth Mental Health. 

We look forward to the publication of the results of the National Audit of the CAMHS Operational Guidelines commenced in December 2022, reviewing all CAMHS teams and their compliance with the CAMHS Operational Guidelines 2019. We expect that that report will provide a framework to progress the work needed to ensure provision of a safe, equitable service for young people.

We also support the MHC recommendation for the regulation of CAMHS by the Mental Health Commission and seek the inclusion of IASW’s input, as the professional representative body for social work, in developing the standards and systems under which CAMHS services would be assessed by the MHC, to ensure a trauma-informed, biopsychosocial measure and approach to recognising and responding to the complexity of need experienced by young people and their families.  

The IASW calls on the HSE to provide appropriate investment in CAMHS services to allow the urgent implementation of the MHC report findings and recommendations. All young people, regardless of where they live in Ireland, must have equal access to a timely, quality, and evidence-based CAMHS services where they need it, as their right. We are available to support the Children and Youth Mental Health office in the revisioning and future design and delivery of CAMHS services nationally and look forward to being involved in the CAMHS improvement process, nationally and locally.

IASW Spokesperson: Vivian Geiran via the office on 086 024 1055 

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Note: The Mental Health Commission's final report on Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services can be found here: https://www.mhcirl.ie/news/mental-health-commission-publishes-final-report-child-and-adolescent-mental-health-services#:~:text=%E2%80%9CThe%20Inspector%20has%20found%20that,the%20failure%20to%20provide%20a