CAMHS referral criteria (Guide)

CAMHS referral criteria : HFNE

In this brief guide, we will discuss the different criteria you should consider before making a CAMHS referral

CAMHS referrals can be very tedious and although each location may have a requirement which makes them unique or each location may not have the full scope of help you are looking for, they all pretty much work off basic criteria for CAMHS referrals.

What are the CAMHS referral criteria?

Below are the CAMHS referral criteria which you should take into consideration before referring anyone to CAMHS.

  • If you are not the child or young person’s parent, carer or guardian you will need their consent. CAMHS is most effective when the young adult or child’s parents or family are involved. Young people aged 16 and above are able to consent to referral in their own right. Some young people under the age of 16 who have the capacity to consent to a referral can also do so. Although gaining parental consent will always be the first point f call.  If you are referring someone below the age of 16, you should consider any risks that person may face given that they are making decisions at such a young age Where a young person doesn’t want to have their family involved they could simply refer themselves to the Adult mental health services (AMHS).

  • You must initially assess the child or young adult a week before referring them
  • In almost all cases except where there is an emergency the child will have to be registered with a GP prior to you making a CAMHS referral
  • Each CAMHS location will have a range of issues it deals with and they will each have a CAMHS form which you must fill. It is advisable to fill this form with the child or young adult being referred
  • The child or young adult will need to have been suffering for at least 3 months before you referred them. In the cases of a severe loss of functions or drastic increase in symptoms, or anything urgent you should clearly state this in your form and your case will likely be turned around within 7 days.
  • In almost all cases it will be a CAMHS referral criteria that the child is younger than 18 at the time of their referral.
  • It is possible to refer people who are 16 or 17 to both the CAMHS & AMHS at the same time and in some cases they may be able to receive care from both the CAMHS  and AMHS although this is usually reserved for those with serious psychiatric disorders.
  • CAMHS is reserved for children who are going through a prolonged period of psychosis or complex and ongoing mental, emotional or behavioural issues. Children who are just dealing with life events should not be immediately referred on to CAMHS except their reaction to the life event grows into a serious cause for concern.

  • The symptoms which reflect the degree of social impairment or suffering will need to be severe for CAMHS to accept the child.

  • Where there is a severe mental disorder you will need to get a referral from a GP TO SEE A CAMHS specialist.

  • A CAMHS specialist will also accept a case where there is a significant amount of complexity such as within the family, social, physical dynamics or where there is a child protection concern.

  • CAMHS will also not accept applications for children or young adults who have issues solely in school but are perfectly fine at home. For these issues itis more relevant to involve the social learning team at the school or a  counsellor.
  • Children of separated/divorced parents who are in a legal dispute about the residence, contact arrangements or other issues may still apply to CAMHS  but special consideration may need to be given and the case may be rejected. It is often better to wait until the legal disputes have been concluded before referring to a child or young adult to CAMHS. CAMHS cannot provide reports to parents at the demand of parents, a court will have to order these reports. CAMHS will also not get involved in arranging residence outside of its facilities for the child and any contact disputes for the child should be handled by the family mediation service(or any relevant party) as CAMHS is unable to act as a mediator.

  • It is a strict requirement that before any referral can be accepted into specialist CAMHS, attempts must have been made by front line staff such as school staff, school nurses, counsellors, teachers and a GP if necessary to assess and try to help the young child or adult. This process can yield more benefits and resolve the child’s issues without making the child go through the CAMHS process.

  • For referrals from CYPS, a social work Initial or Core Assessment, or a Common Assessment Framework (CAF) assessment needs to have been completed before referral to CAMHS
  • You will need to complete the single point of entry form and also provide a letter detailing information such as: Current concerns/problems?, What are the triggers for seeking help at this moment in time? How long has the problem existed, how severe is it, and how does it impact on the child/young person’s family, education, work?

The above are the basic outlines of a CAMHS referral criteria.

Different CAMHS locations may have different criteria so be sure to contact your local CAMHS and inquire about their CAMHS referral criteria.

CAMHS referral criteria (Guide)

Juanita Agboola

Juanita Agboola is the editor in chief of HFNE and an expert in mental health online. She has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 2012. All Guides are reviewed by our editorial team which constitutes various clinical psychologists, PhD and PsyD colleagues.