Skip to main content

You are here:

Mental Health Commission report: Ombudsman for Children calls for urgent action to address widespread CAMHS deficits

The Independent Review of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) published today by the Mental Health Commission (MHC) highlights once again that urgent action is needed to ensure all children and young people have access to high-quality, safe and child-centred mental health services. That’s according to the Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon, who acted as an advisor as part of the review.

Every child has the right to the highest attainable standard of health, including mental health, which the MHC report shows is not currently the case. In May the OCO published A Piece of My Mind, a mental health survey of over 2,000 children where 42% of the children who accessed CAMHS said the service they received didn’t help with their mental health issues. The findings of the Independent Review show that children are not receiving the care they need and deserve. That is why almost half are unsatisfied.

The necessary legislative changes, which would allow for the MHC to regulate CAMHS and therefore ensure the necessary governance and clinical reforms are implemented without delay, should be prioritised by Government when the Dáil resumes. This was recommended back in January when the Interim Report was published and the Government has failed to move on this change.

Commenting on the MHC report, Dr Muldoon said:

“While we know there are some pockets of excellent individual teams and professionals working in CAMHS, the MHC report shows that this is not consistently true across the country. Today’s report from the Mental Health Commission paints a bleak picture of the state of CAMHS nationwide and I am deeply concerned with Dr Finnerty’s assertion that she cannot stand over the standard of services currently available in this State. This is a dangerous and truly unacceptable situation for our children and young people.

“Children deserve and expect a child-centred, evidence-based, safe CAMHS service, regardless of where they live. However, the MHC report today shows there are still major governance, risk management and digital infrastructure issues that need to be addressed.

“It is also clear that the current CAMHS model of care whereby a single consultant psychiatrist has sole clinical responsibility is outdated, and we need to move to a more multidisciplinary leadership approach.

“Improvements too are needed in Primary Care services for children with mental health difficulties, and a dedicated mental health budget for children with ring-fenced funding should form part of the health spend for Budget 2024. This urgent need for improvement across CAMHS should be reflected in the allocated budget which last year was less than 1% of the overall health spend.

“I am also concerned about vulnerable groups of children who are already marginalised and are facing further difficulties accessing CAMHS due to language or cultural barriers or because of where

they are located. This includes Traveller children, asylum seekers, refugees and migrants, children in care and those who are LGBTI+. Every effort should be made to make sure these children aren’t discriminated against and have equal access to services.

“It is now seven months since the Interim MHC report highlighted serious deficits in CAMHS and detailed children ‘lost’ to follow up in the system. Despite assurances from the HSE that improvements have been made, today’s report shows there are still serious deficits in CAMHS that leave children and young people at risk.

“The time has come for the HSE Board and CEO, with the support of the Minister for Health, to be bold and start to re-imagine a modern CAMHS service which is safe and accessible and led by multiple professionals who are proud to serve the children of Ireland. The current system can no longer be considered fit for purpose and must be consigned to history.”


Notes to Editor:

The Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon acted as advisor to the Mental Health Commission during the independent review process. The Ombudsman for Children offered a child rights perspective on CAMHS services in Ireland, and the need to consider the impact that the services are having on children’s ability to fully enjoy the rights they are entitled to, including the right to high standard of mental health.

Media contact:

Aoife Carragher Head of Communications 087 148 4173