HUNDREDS of children in Cumbria need help from mental health professionals, a leading Barrow councillor has warned.

Cllr Anne Burns told a meeting 500 need a child and adolescent mental health assessment (CAMHs) which allows the NHS to decide a treatment package.

The Labour cabinet member for children’s services raised the issue with health bosses at a meeting in Kendal of the Cumbria Health and Wellbeing Board. It brings together councillors, health officials and council staff.

Cllr Burns said: “There are 500 children already waiting for some kind of CAMHs service in Cumbria. It’s really really important because we can’t have all of those youngsters in crisis. We have to get help to them earlier.”

County council leader Stewart Young, chairman of the board, said the services had been “heavily criticised” by inspectors and the media.

“They are not performing as well as they should and haven’t been for a number of years,” said Cllr Young, the Labour member for Upperby. “We are determined to hold the deliverance of these services and ourselves to account.”

Recently the 2015-2020 transformation plan for Lancashire and South Cumbria Children and Young People’s Emotional Wellbeing and Mental Health services had been refreshed and submitted to NHS England.

It followed consultation with children, young people and their families. A total of 58 per cent agreed with its aims and 35 per cent “partly” agreed.

One consultee said: “I remain very concerned that the child mental health strategy is far too short on clarity about the systemic reasons we are seeing so many very stressed children.”

Health bosses pledged improvements from training-up mental health staff to deliver training in schools and creating an online portal.

It would offer information, advice, self-help, care pathways and self-referral for children, young people, parents, carers and professionals.

Rachel Snow-Miller, director of commissioning for mental health in Lancashire and South Cumbria, said the 2019-20 plan had three “massive” priorities.

“What the new plan describes is what we are going to do,” she said. “We need to redesign CAMHs services. Children and young people are designing the CAMHs service with us and evaluating the CAMHs service with us.

“We need to fundamentally understand how we deliver an NHS-funded service that meets people’s needs, building on the other services out there.”

Anthony Gardner, director of planning and performance for the Morecambe Bay Clinical Commissioning Group, said despite South Cumbria joining with Lancashire, he was heartened by a genuine move to improve services.

“I know there are a lot of challenges and this is going to take some time but I want to reassure colleagues from a South Cumbria perspective, we are greatly heartened that we have got off to a really good start,” said Mr Gardner.