Sinn Féin TD for Dublin South West Seán Crowe has said that the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) is barely adequate for those who rely on its services. Teachta Crowe said that a broken system is forcing many families into expensive private diagnosis and treatment, and that the service seems alarmingly exclusionary towards autistic children.

Speaking after chairing the meeting of the Oireachtas Health Committee with Families for Reform of CAMHS, Teachta Crowe said:

“This week, I chaired a meeting of the Oireachtas Health Committee with Families for Reform of CAMHS and what we heard was shocking, but unfortunately not surprising. There are now 4,400 children on a waiting list for their first CAMHS appointment.

“Many teams across the state are missing key personnel, have long waiting lists, and are clearly not delivering support and services for children and young adults. Supports and services we also heard don’t always follow the child into adulthood.

“This is clearly a broken system that forces many parents, who understandably want to get their children the help they need, into expensive private diagnoses and, then when there is no way to access public care, into private treatment and even greater expense.

“This is neglect of vulnerable children with mental health needs cannot be used as an excuse towards the abandonment of services to privatisation that we have seen elsewhere in the health service, such as in residential or dental care. The state must step up and do more for these children and their families.

“Worryingly, the current service seems alarmingly exclusionary to autistic children. Parents are being advised not to disclose a diagnosis of autism when seeking help from CAMHS because it seems the service does not know what to do with these children, so it rejects their referrals almost out of hand.

“This is no way to treat vulnerable children and the families that need help from our mental health services. The services for adults are barely adequate, but it seems that services for children are barely functional.”