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Letter to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care in the UK regarding CAMHS mistreatment of Autistic children and young people

Dear Health Secretary,

I am writing to you regarding the ongoing crisis in relation to the treatment of Autistic children and young people by Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in the UK. Many Autistic children and young people are being failed on a daily basis by this service, whom despite their duty to support children’s mental health, often refuse access to services and/or provide inadequate or even harmful support. You are likely aware that my colleague and friend Emma Dalmayne has submitted a petition to Downing Street on 13th September 2023. This petition contains the signatures of over 200,000 people.

I do not need to tell you that this represents a lot of people who have been failed by a service whom for many people is a much needed life line. Autistic lives are literally in the balance.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists have stated that Autistic children and young people in the UK are up to 28x more likely to think about or attempt suicide. This worrying fact is confirmed in the governments recently released Suicide Prevention Strategy which highlights Autistic people as a specific demographic to be targeted by this strategy due to the inordinately high rates of suicide among our community. Autistic children and young people are dying needlessly, and the current state of CAMHS is likely to be a major contributing factor.

CAMHS needs to be redesigned with all groups in mind, not just those who already have access to the services. There is a current opportunity to be on the right side of history by ensuring that CAMHS staff assess and respond to Autistic service users in a timely manner, and engage with training designed by and for Autistic people. There is a huge supply of Autistic knowledge creators and communicators in the UK who would be well placed to ensure that CAMHS staff have appropriate knowledge and responses to Autistic service users.

Every child lost by CAMHS is a tragedy that should not be repeated. The human cost of CAMHS failures reaches beyond the individual child, affecting the family, friends, and communities of those children. In a country that wants to reduce suicide to zero, addressing this issue is absolutely vital to any viable strategy. This letter has been signed by members and allies of the Autistic community. Many of whom have Autistic children and young people in their own families.

I beg of you to engage with our community and take action before anymore lives need to be lost.

Yours Sincerely,

David Gray-Hammond and Signatories

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