Almost half of children and young people in care have a psychiatric disorder (compared to one in 10 amongst those who are not 'looked after' children). The Commons Education Committee's report on the issue, published last Thursday, concluded that the systems for assessing and dealing with mental health issues amongst such children were poor.
The absence of qualified professionals carrying out assessments was a particular concern. So too the refusal by children's mental health services to intervene and provide adequate care in the absence of a stable placement for the child (the chicken and egg scenario). A lack of continuity on reaching 18 was also highlighted.
Although the committee made a series of recommendations for better assessment, better integration of services and better continuity into adulthood, it is no surprise that the LGA highlighted the funding crisis in mental health services for young people in its response to the Committee's criticisms. (see http://www.local.gov.uk/web/guest/media-releases/-/journal_content/56/10180/7805227/NEWS).
We wait to see whether the recommended changes to the current statutory guidance, if taken up by government, will assist in challenging the inadequacy of current assessments and care plans both for looked-after and former looked-after children.
13. Current methods of assessing children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing as they enter care are inconsistent and too often fail to identify those in need of specialist care and support. Initial assessments are rarely completed by qualified mental health professionals with an appreciation of the varied and complex issues ... 14. We recommend that the Government amends the statutory guidance to make clear that an SDQ should be completed for every child entering care as a starting point. In addition all looked-after children should have a full mental health assessment by a qualified mental health professional. Where required this should be followed by regular assessment of mental health and well-being as part of existing looked-after children reviews. House of Commons Education Committee, Mental health and well-being of looked after children, 4th Report: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmselect/cmeduc/481/481.pdf