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Directors of Children’s Services join call for mental health support for care leavers

Barnardo’s report finds that two-thirds of care leavers with mental health needs are not receiving help

The Association of Directors of Children's Services has supported the call by Barnardo's for action from government to make mental health services available for all children and young people, especially vulnerable care leavers.

Charlotte Ramsden, Chair of the ADCS Health, Care and Additional Needs Policy Committee, said:

"It is essential that all children and young people are supported to have the best possible health and wellbeing to help them become happy, productive citizens in our society. Ensuring that they receive the right support at the right time is one of the highest priorities for local authorities. This is particularly important for children and young people in our care and care leavers who may need support to help them overcome their difficult early life experiences. Both local authorities and NHS must have regard to their corporate parenting principles as outlined in the Children and Social Work Act.

"The majority of mental illnesses begin during childhood so there is a clear case for improving the effectiveness, availability and reach of child and adolescent mental health services. Although much focus has been placed on improving these services with the publication of Future in Mind, creation of the independent Mental Health Taskforce and campaigns to reduce the stigma around mental health – this has not always resulted in transformative action on the ground. We now need to see action from government to make improving these services a reality for all children and young people, particularly vulnerable care leavers."

A Barnardo's study revealed that two-thirds of care leavers identified as having mental health needs were not receiving any help from a statutory service. The research suggests that nearly half of England's 26,340 care leavers may be suffering with mental health problems.

The Neglected Minds report also found that one in four had faced a mental health crisis since leaving care. Barnardo's is calling on the Government to ensure that some of the £1.4bn promised to improve children's mental health, is used to support vulnerable care leavers.

Barnardo's Chief Executive, Javed Khan, said:

"Our research shows a shocking picture of care leavers in need with no access to suitable mental health support. Young people who have been in care often experience poor mental health ranging from anxiety to serious problems following abuse or neglect. The Government must ensure these vulnerable young people receive the support they so desperately need when it honours its pledge to improve children's mental health."

Barnardo's wants clinical commissioning groups to invest more in services specifically aimed at meeting the needs of young people leaving care, such as:

The research also discovered that those working with care leavers often do not have sufficient understanding of mental health and how to support young people. Those mental health services which are available are frequently too inflexible to meet the continuing needs of young people – for example operating an age cut-off at 18.

Disturbingly, Barnardo's workers reported a number of cases where they were unable to access support for a young person despite incidents of self-harm and suicide attempts.

For the Barnardo's Neglected Minds report, click here.