Education Committee report on mental health welcomed
The Fostering Network welcomes the findings of The House of Commons Education Select Committee's recent report, Mental Health and Wellbeing Among Looked After Children. The report highlights the fact that looked after children are four times more likely than their peers in the general population to experience mental health problems but that they face a number of challenges in accessing the appropriate mental health support. The Select Committee’s report, which has a focus on England, is based on written and oral testimony, both of which The Fostering Network submitted.
The Fostering Network is particularly pleased that the report includes several recommendations based on the oral and written testimony we provided, including:
- highlighting the issue of access to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health services (CAMHS) especially around waiting lists, placement stability and placement moves – The report recommends that looked after children, because of the distinct challenges they face, should have priority access to mental health assessments. However, we are disappointed that the report falls short of recommending that looked after children should also have priority access to subsequent treatment, instead recommending that treatment should be based on clinical need.
- asking for mental health support for care leavers up to the age of 25 – The report recommends that CAMHS should be made available for all previously looked after young people up to the age of 25. The report also recommends that access to services beyond the age of 18 should be offered where appropriate but not made mandatory where an individual would be better suited to moving onto adult mental health services.
- asking for mandatory training on mental health support for foster carers – The report recommends that the current Training, Support and Development standards should be supplemented with specific modules which focus on mental health and emotional wellbeing.
Kevin Williams, chief executive of The Fostering Network, who gave oral testimony at the Select Committee said: 'We welcome the publication of this report and the recommendations it makes, especially in relation to the prioritisation of looked after children for mental health assessments. It is also vital that all children in care who have an assessed clinical need have timely access to appropriate mental health services.
‘There is very little research undertaken looking at the mental health of looked after children and we fully support the report’s recommendation that the Government return to funding five-yearly prevalence surveys on children and young people’s mental health.
‘The Fostering Network firmly believes that young people should have a say in the services that they are accessing which is why we are also delighted to see the recommendation that clinical commissioning groups and local authorities should take into account the views of looked after children and their parents. And we look forward to working with the Government on the training recommendations to ensure foster carers are equipped to support looked after children with mental health difficulties.
‘The mental health of future generations of looked after children depend on the recommendations now being implemented. Our children are the best investment this Government could ever make, and we would urge them to ensure that these recommendations are fully funded.’