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Identifying Mental Health issues when children enter care

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A significant number of local authorities and health services are failing to identify mental health issues when children enter care.

Children in care are too often missing out on treatment for mental health problems despite being four times more likely to experience them, say MPs.

The House of Commons Education Select Committee found child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) are ‘turning away’ young people in care because they have not met high thresholds for treatment or because the children are without a stable placement.

They warn this is against statutory guidance which says looked-after children should never be refused a service on the grounds of their placement.

The MPs heard some child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) were unwilling to begin treatment if a child moved into a new foster placement, even if this was within the same local authority.

Neil Carmichael, chair of the committee, said: “Local authorities have a special responsibility for the welfare of looked-after children. In spite of this duty, it’s clear that many looked-after children in England are not getting the mental health support they need.”

Responding to the report, the Local Government Association's Community Wellbeing spokeswoman acknowledged the importance of providing children with access to mental health services and argued for a 'joint approach'.

‘We recognise that improvements urgently need to be made to the mental health services available to all children, in particular those in care,’ she said.

‘However, to provide the level of support required, we need a joint approach with every organisation involved in a young person's life, such as schools, carers and health services, as well as councils.’

The report urges:
• better mental health assessments of children entering care
• better mental health support for care leavers
• better integration of services for children in care, with more focus on mental health
• more mental health training for teachers, foster carers and children's home staff
• a bigger voice for children in care on the services they receive
• better research on the prevalence of mental illness in children

A government spokesman said: "Children in care have often lived through traumatic experiences, and it is vital they receive the support they need.

"That's why we are putting a record £1.4bn into children and young people's mental health, and investing in better links between these services and schools. This is backed up by £700m in reforming the social work profession, so staff are supported to make the right decisions for those in their care."

If you wish to read the report in full then please click here, if you wish to speak with me about any Social Work related topic please feel free to give me a call.
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