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Expert Working Group recommends ways to improve the mental health and wellbeing of looked after children

Over 80 children and young people contributed their experience to the project

 An Expert Working Group, established at the request of the Department of Health and the Department for Education, has published its report as to how the emotional and mental health needs of children and young people in care, adopted from care, under kinship care, under Special Guardianship Orders, as well as care leavers, might be better met.

It had been proposed that, by October 2017 the following would be developed:

The charity Social Care Institute for Excellence was contracted by the Department of Health and the Department for Education to establish the Expert Working Group (EWG) to support this work.

Over 80 children and young people contributed their experience and evidence to the project. The EWG also heard from those looking after young people and approximately 100 professionals including looked after children nurses, doctors, birth parents, social workers, residential key workers, foster carers and adoptee parents. The EWG gathered evidence from a review of literature about what the mental health needs of looked after children were, and held a Call for Evidence of good practice. The group also considered what a good system to support the health and wellbeing of looked after children would look like, and described its key features.

One of the key issues recognised was that good quality ongoing assessment must be the foundation of a comprehensive strategy of support and services. One of the strongest views of the Expert Working Group was that local areas need to be able to provide consistent care and support for a child, with an understanding that their diagnosis and therefore the type of support services they need can change. Therefore, assessment and services must be responsive and flexible. Mental health is a continuum and cannot be seen as a one-off diagnosis.

From the assembled evidence base, the work of the Group, the views of children and young people who are experts by experience, professionals and those looking after young people, the EWG has:

The Group says that change needs to happen now and hopes that its report provides a platform for that change and the necessary call for action.

For the report and recommendations, click here.