SOME of the most vulnerable children in Cumbria do not have their needs met until they are in crisis, a report states.

The joint inspection report, published this week by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission, is highly critical of shortcomings in care provided by the local area - which includes Cumbria County Council, schools and local health bodies - to childre and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

Among the failings identified was the inconsistent support for children and young people with mental health problems - with some who have had to wait more than a year-and-a-half to receive treatment and others whose needs are not met until they are in crisis.

The report states: “The local area has not ensured that vulnerable children and young people are consistently well supported. In particular, those children and young people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and those who face challenges in relation to their social, emotional and mental health often do not receive the support that they need. This sometimes leads to these children and young people falling into crisis.”

It continues: “There are pronounced variations in the accessibility of the core CAMHS service across the county. Children and young people who live in the west of the county are experiencing the longest delays, with some young people waiting in excess of 80 weeks to access treatment following an assessment.

“There have been increases in the number of children and young people requiring crisis intervention and admission to Tier Four facilities. This indicates that there is a significant cohort of children and young people who do not have their needs met until they are in crisis.”

Peter Rooney, chief officer for North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group, said no child or young person should have to wait but staffing and resource issues mean they need to prioritise those presenting based on the urgency of their needs.

He said: “Importantly there has been a real improvement in the time taken to respond to children with the most immediate and most acute needs, which you may describe as presenting in crisis.

“It is appropriate that healthcare services organise to meet their needs as quickly as possible because they have the most urgent need. Inevitably, what that means is that staff working with those children with an urgent need are not able to deliver services to children with a really important presentation, though not quite as urgent. That does mean that some children have had to experience a very long wait for services.”

He said there are two key improvements they need to make - improving access times and waiting times to ensure children are seen as quickly as possible and to support children and their families while they wait.

An initiative currently being put in place by Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust across its child and adolescent mental health is services is support during the wait - keeping in touch by telephone or appointment - including, in the long run, parents or children being able to contact the services with questions and queries.

Mr Rooney added: “Although we wouldn’t want any child to wait, when there are a limited number of skilled clinicians and practitioners, inevitably some children do have to wait so [this is about] how can we support those children and how can we support those families to help them to avoid a crisis during that period.”

As a result of the inspection Cumbria County Council and the county’s clinical commissioning groups must submit a Written Statement of Action to Ofsted by August 21.

It comes as thousands of parents, disabled children and professionals plan to take to the streets on May 30 and deliver a petition to Downing Street calling on the Government to end the “national crisis” on SEND funding and delivery.