Almost four in five educational psychologists say that staffing shortfalls mean children in their area no longer have fair access to their services.
A survey of educational psychologists (EP) in 29 local authorities in England found that 60 per cent had unfilled vacancies in their services and 87 per cent reported a reduction in staffing hours.
When asked if there were groups who were less likely to access their services in the current climate, 25 per cent of EPs gave the answer "children who were not in school", and 14 per cent said children in poverty.
Educational psychologists assess children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and suggest ways to support them.
“In the time I've been an EP, priorities have changed, funding and services have been cut, and our role has narrowed,” one respondent told the survey. “Fewer children, schools and families can access us, and in my opinion our impact is greatly reduced.”
The survey of 57 EPs in 29 authorities was carried out by the UCL Institute of Education and the University of Glasgow, supported by the British Psychological Society’s (BPS) Division of Educational and Child Psychology.
The research summary notes: “EPs expressed their strong concerns about being understaffed and overstretched due to unfilled vacancies. Because of this EPs…felt they are no longer able to provide adequate psychological support to CYP [children and young people].”
The government last month announced an expansion of the funding to train more educational psychologists from September 2020 as part of a £350 million package to provide support for children with special educational needs and disabilities.
Sarb Bajwa, chief executive of the BPS, said: “This study adds to the growing evidence that many vulnerable children and young people are struggling to access the services they need.
"It is unacceptable that thousands of children and young people who need help cannot access it. Failure to help with mental health problems at this stage can lead more serious problems developing.
“We are pleased that the secretary of state recognised the need to train more educational psychologists, but we question whether the additional funding will be enough to achieve the government’s ambitions.
"A clearer, more ambitious workforce plan is need across education, health and social care.”
A DfE spokesperson said: "We know how critical educational psychologists are in supporting pupils with special educational needs. That’s why the Education Secretary announced that we are expanding funding to train more educational psychologists – increasing trainees from 160 to at least 206 by September 2020.
“We have also commissioned a research project to ensure that educational psychology services are available where need is greatest.”