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(UK) Scotland: Children stuck in 'autism wasteland' waiting months for referrals

Dec 11, 2020, Daily Record: Parents slam CAMHS support after region's crisis revealed The Observer has spoken to a pair of local parents about their experiences with the system - with fears that inefficiencies and delays could have a damaging effect on the young people in need. The true impact of the region’s growing mental health support crisis for young people has been laid bare by local parents let down by the system. A report released earlier this month revealed Forth Valley has the highest average waiting time between first referral and treatment to the region’s specialist child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) teams. According to the report, those referred to the service locally were waiting an average of nine months to begin their treatment, well above the national guideline of being seen within 18 weeks. It also stated that more than 970 young people were still on hold for help at the end of September. The Observer has spoken to two parents with first-hand experience of the system - and they believe it is letting those most in need down. Kay Almeida, from Stirling, was referred to CAMHS by her paediatrician four years ago as a means of securing support for her 12-year-old son Duncan, who has autism. However, she says Duncan’s case was not referred to a psychologist and believes her son is stuck in an ‘autism wasteland’. Kay said: “Duncan was diagnosed when he was four and was non-verbal until the age of six. “Our paediatrician suggested that we go to CAMHS and it provided an avenue for adults to speak to someone about securing some support. “We waited about a year to a year and a half for a referral and we were asked to fill in a form about our child, so my husband and I took hours filling this in with loads of detail and then turned up for our appointment thinking we were seeing a psychologist.... Kay’s story is mirrored by that of Stirling mum Ashleigh Wood, whose two children Amy, aged 10, and Adam, aged seven, have been in the CAMHS system for several years. Ashleigh said: “My daughter has struggled for many years and as family it has had a detrimental impact. It has affected my own mental health with continually having to call and chase everyone up. “All the services around my daughter have said they need CAMHS to step up and work with her. We as parents with children who have these struggles have it hard enough without being made to feel we don’t know our own children and that we have to fight so hard to get them help which they rightfully deserve to receive.... “NHS Forth Valley CAMHS remains an outlier within Scotland in that the service accepts referrals for the assessment and diagnosis of neuro developmental disorders, like Autistic Spectrum Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. “This in some way goes to explain our reported performance against the 18 week referral to treatment. “These difficulties and issues are not unique to Forth Valley and the Scottish Government is in the process of reviewing the Service Specification for neuro developmental disorders. This will set out expectations and take forward the recommendations identified by the Mental Health Task Force following the Rejected Referrals report.”


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