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Shocking Mental health services under fire as self-harming teen 'not a priority' for waiting list

In one recent case, a CAMHS team failed to complete an assessment of a child for two years despite directions to do so from a judge


Dr Maria Corbett

Dr Maria Corbett

Dr Maria Corbett

Some child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) have come in for sharp criticism for a lack of engagement with troubled children in care, according to a report on childcare law proceedings.

In one recent case, a CAMHS team failed to complete an assessment of a child for two years despite directions to do so from a judge.

In a separate case, a court heard a "deeply troubled" teenager was deemed not to be of sufficiently high priority to be placed on a CAMHS waiting list, even though she was self-harming.

The lapses are outlined in a new report by the Child Law Project, which reports on cases involving orders under the Child Care Act.

Under the act, children can be placed in the care of Tusla, the child and family agency, where there is a serious risk to their health or welfare. Quite often a multi-agency response is required to help such children. This can frequently involve the help of HSE CAMHS teams, of which there are 72 nationwide.

The criticisms outlined in the Child Law Project report come at a time when the spotlight is very much on the operation and resourcing of CAMHS services.

A review of cases in South Kerry published last month found shocking deficiencies, with hundreds of children having received risky care and proof of significant harm to 46 service users.

The review highlighted the over-medication of children without proper diagnosis and major failings in supervision and governance.

Inspector of mental health services Dr Susan Finnerty is to conduct an independent review of the provision of CAMHS services in the wake of the South Kerry findings.

Child Law Project chief executive Dr Maria Corbett said its latest report detailed how some CAMHS and HSE disability services were sharply criticised in the courts for the way they responded to referrals and requests to assess and help children in care.

"Despite acknowledgement of the need for inter-agency co-operation, cases involving child protection, mental health and disability continue to result in situations where children slip through the cracks," she said.

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In one recent case, a district court in a rural town granted a full-care order for a 15-year-old boy. The teenager, who was diagnosed 10 years earlier with ADHD, was detained following assaults on and threats to care staff, and damage to property in a residential unit.

The court heard that since he had come into care two years earlier, and despite directions from the judge and the efforts of Tusla, CAMHS had so far failed to complete an assessment of him.

In another case, a judge in an unnamed court directed the immediate assessment of a deeply troubled child who had been deemed by CAMHS not to be of sufficiently high priority to be placed on its waiting list.

The girl was self-harming, depressed and deeply affected by trauma in her earlier childhood. The court heard CAMHS had suggested another service called Jigsaw.

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