AN alliance of children’s services providers has urged the Scottish Government to urgently increase mental health spending in its Budget.

The call came from the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC) as Public Health Scotland figures published yesterday indicated that at the end of December 2020, 1560 children and young people had been waiting more than a year for mental health treatment.

The coalition says the figures are the worst on record and represent a near tripling from the December 2019 figure of 589.

The SCSC has urged greatly increased investment in services for children and young people to tackle a current mental health pandemic. It has also called for a “national crusade” as referrals begin to return to pre-lockdown levels.

The SCSC says there are growing concerns over a “lost generation” of vulnerable children and young people, whose mental health is being impacted by the pandemic.

Even before then, it says, cases of poor mental health were at unprecedented levels and there are a growing number of vulnerable children who cannot access services.

However, the coalition says, just more than 50p in every £100 of the NHS budget is being spent on specialist Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

The new figures also show that only four Scottish health boards met the Scottish Government’s waiting time target of 18 weeks from referral to treatment over the quarter to December 2020.

The SCSC has warned mental health services will face an overwhelming and unprecedented pressure due to pent-up demand created by the Covid-19 lockdown, coupled with a cut in youth support services. It has also called for a renewed focus on prevention and early intervention and greater partnership working between the public, private and third sector and urged that awareness is raised about the services on offer, especially those at a community level.

A spokesperson for the SCSC said: “These latest figures are deeply troubling and point to a highly challenging environment for both our young people and our mental health services.

"We welcome the fact that the Scottish Government is intending to invest more than £1.1 billion in mental health services overall, but significantly greater funding is needed to address the crisis facing our children and young people.”