The costs and benefits of increased service provision

Investing in children's mental health services is excellent value for money and will bring a lifetime of benefits to young people, their families, communities and the economy as a whole. We have examined the costs and the benefits of a range of interventions to prevent or treat some of the most common mental health conditions that affect children and young people.

There is a wide range of interventions for conduct disorder, anxiety, depression and ADHD that not only improve children's mental health but also lead to substantial economic benefits including future savings in public spending. 

Group parenting programmes for conduct disorder in young children, for example, generate measurable benefits of at least £3 for every £1 invested, while group cognitive behavioural therapy for anxiety in adolescence produces benefits of £31 per £1.

Yet only a minority of children with diagnosable disorders receive any form of treatment and recent cuts in the funding of children’s mental health services suggest that, if anything, the treatment gap is widening. Such under-investment in children's mental health support is a false economy.

But to achieve the best value for money, children’s mental health services need to reach out to those who need them most and to be delivered to a high standard. And there are significant gaps in evidence in one or two areas of great need and growing concern, such as self-harm and eating disorders.

What you can do - policy

Increase funding to children's mental health services.

Carry out further research in problems such as self-harm and eating disorders to establish evidence in these areas.

What you can do - commissioning

The NHS, local authorities, schools and voluntary and community bodies need to work together on commissioning, funding and service provision to deliver these interventions effectively. For example, perinatal mental health and youth transition services both require adult and child mental health services to work closely together.