Launching the Care in Mind series

Care in mind

Martin Crewe says care experienced young people are not getting the right support at the right time

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4th December 2019 by TFN Guest 0 Comments

At Barnardo’s Scotland, we work with thousands of children, young people, families and carers across the country. We are increasingly concerned about the mental health and wellbeing of looked-after children and care leavers.

We come from the perspective that everyone has psychological needs that must be met in order to thrive.  Care-experienced young people are not a homogeneous group, but the reality is that children in care and care leavers are more likely to have experienced early adversity including neglect, abuse and loss, and a trauma-informed response is therefore necessary.

Research shows that this group are more likely to have a diagnosable mental health problem and are more likely to attempt suicide in adulthood.  In order for these outcomes to improve, and for our looked-after children to look forward to brighter futures, we have launched the Care in Mind series – a collection of resources examining different themes within this complex issue.

The first paper in this series was published in November and investigates the barriers care-experienced children and young people face when in need of mental health support.  What has become clear is that many of the main reasons for a rejected referral to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) disproportionately affect looked-after children and care leavers. This means that care-experienced young people are not getting the right support at the right time, in a way that works for them.

Overall, in terms of CAMHS, the problem is two-fold.  Firstly, the types of therapy made available are not suited to meet the mental health and wellbeing needs of the care-experienced population who are more likely to be struggling as a result of trauma. Secondly, aspects of policy and practice within CAMH services create additional barriers for looked-after children and care leavers.  As such, we are calling for a variety of mental health supports to be made available to care-experienced young people which meet their needs and support their engagement.

Martin Crewe

Martin Crewe

Alongside this, change is needed in the care sector so that structural barriers to mental health support are removed and the workforce is better supported to meet the needs of looked-after children and care leavers.  This links to Scottish Government initiatives to ensure a trauma-informed workforce and will require greater multi-agency working between children’s services, adult services and health services.

Population level planning should not be stigmatising, but instead seen as part of delivering care journeys that allow space for recovery and increase the prospect of positive outcomes as young people transition to adulthood. We want to see a system in which looked-after children and care leavers have their mental health needs acknowledged, recognised and responded to in the most effective, accessible and consistent way.  This requires a willingness to examine policy and practice across sectors.  We hope the recommendations of this report, and further insights from the Care in Mind series, provide a constructive contribution to this process.

Please get in touch if you have any comments on the report.

Martin Crewe is the director of Barnardo’s Scotland