The cost-of-living crisis is pushing children’s mental health to “breaking point”, according to a coalition of groups that provide specialist care.

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC) said inflation and soaring energy prices are replacing the pandemic as the primary cause of poor mental health among children and young people.

Members of the coalition have called for an urgent co-ordinated response by the Scottish and UK governments to address the crisis and avoid a potential “lost generation” of children.

They have also called for greatly increased investment in mental health services.

The SCSC highlighted that in the first three months of this year, 9,672 children and young people were referred to mental health services for treatment, a 22.4 per cent increase from the same quarter last year.

A spokesman for the SCSC said: “Millions of our children and young are at breaking point, with stress and anxiety reaching alarming levels because of the effect of the cost-of-living crisis.

“Since the pandemic, referrals have increased and the cost-of-living crisis is only going to make it worse, creating a potential lost generation of vulnerable children and young people.

“If we don’t give young people the support they need, when they need it, the consequences can be catastrophic.”“By minimising the drivers of mental health problems – such as poverty – we can reduce the impact on services and we would urge the Scottish Government and UK Government to work together and address this.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are setting the conditions needed for long-term, sustainable improvement to the CAMHS (children and adolescent mental health services) system.

“An additional £40 million was allocated to NHS Boards in 2021/22 to improve CAMHS. This funding has gone towards improving CAMHS provision which includes reducing the backlogs of CAMHS waiting lists, improving access to asessments out of hours and improving data collection and access to specialist regional services.

“We are also investing in earlier intervention and prevention through community support for children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing and access to school counselling.”