New guidance to improve quality of life for children and young people in care
Early and improved access to mental health services should be made available as standard practice for children and young people in care, a group vulnerable to developing mental health problems, according to new guidance from NICE and the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE).
There are over 60,000 children and young people under the care of local authorities in England at any one time, with over half experiencing emotional and mental health problems.
While many children and young people have positive experiences in care, many do not and are unable to stay in the same place with the same carers, or attend the same school for extended periods of time.
This latest guidance, out today, aims to address this by calling for a whole systems approach from educational, health and social care organisations, professionals and carers to communicate and collaborate more effectively to improve standards of care across the country.
Flexible and accessible mental health services should be made available at the right time and by the right people with the capacity and expertise to work with children and young people with particular needs, and those that care for them.
Particular attention to access should be made for black and minority ethnic children and young people, unaccompanied asylum seeking children and young people and for young people entering secure accommodation or custody.
Dennis Simpson, Chair of the committee that developed the guidance and previously a director of social services in inner London, cautioned: “Looked-after children should be regarded as a priority group by mental health services, but often there are delays which hinder access for this group.”
Elsewhere, the guidance highlights the importance of providing practical support and encouragement before and during further higher education.
Many children and young people do not have a stable educational environment, as they move around a lot they also change schools. The guidance recognises that an education that encourages them to achieve to the best of their ability and aim as high as they can will offer them the same life chances as other children and young people in the general population.
The guidance also highlights the importance of high quality, accessible services and support for young people leaving care, and keeping accurate and up-to-date health information.
Professor Mike Kelly, Director of Public Health at NICE, said: “The challenges looked-after children face are well-established, so this guidance focuses on ways agencies can work together more successfully to improve the lives of these vulnerable children and young people.
“We know some recommendations are good value for money in the short term, and others are good value for money in the long run. For example, a failure to intervene early to address mental health problems can lead to costs further down the line.”
Amanda Edwards, Deputy Chief Executive of SCIE, added: “This guidance focuses on how local agencies can work together by, for example, ensuring that looked-after children and young people have good access to mental health services or that good, joint-agency support is provided to foster parents.”
19 October 2010
This page was last updated: 19 October 2010