Troubled pupils need doctors

27th June 2003 at 01:00
HAS it crossed anyone's mind that the reason pupil-referral units cannot cope with the children they receive is because they are educational establishments attempting to deal with what is chiefly a medical problem? In many cases they are dealing with children who are far too sick to access education.

It is a grave cause for concern that so few people seem to accept that children can be mentally ill, or that they need proper and appropriate care. The same behaviours can be seen in adults and children, yet usually only adults receive appropriate treatment and hospitalisation.

PRUs work valiantly with disturbed children and it is a disgrace that they should be considered "failing". The Office for Standards in Education would not have the temerity to inspect a psychiatric hospital and suggest it was failing because of the disturbed behaviour of its patients.

Sadly, therapeutic hospital schools which had developed expertise in caring for disturbed children have been closed. How short-sighted that was, and how typical of the Government to have expectations of PRUs that are impossible for them to meet. New Labour is now in the same position of not listening to those at the grassroots, as was the previous Conservative government.

I am grieved that disturbed children, some of whom I suspect may have been physically, sexually or emotionally abused, and some who are self-harming or have suicidal tendencies, continue to receive inappropriate, inadequate treatment and education.

Their problems will, if they survive, follow them into adult life, many of them ending up in prisons, on the streets or in psychiatric hospitals.

The financial and human cost of turning a blind eye to the issue of child and adolescent mental illness is far greater than that of giving it the acknowledgement and priority it rightly deserves.

Christine Lees

13 Islestone Court

Berwick-upon-Tweed Northumberland

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