Chil­dren in care ‘too of­ten de­nied men­tal health treat­ment’

Pakistan Observer - - KARACHI CITY -

CHIL­DREN in care are too of­ten miss ing out on treat­ment for men­tal health prob­lems de­spite be­ing four times more likely to experience them, say MPs. The Com­mons Ed­u­ca­tion Com­mit­tee says chil­dren fos­tered in Eng­land are some­times de­nied treat­ment sim­ply be­cause they move place­ment too of­ten.

They should in­stead be given pri­or­ity for men­tal health sup­port, the com­mit­tee says in a re­port. The gov­ern­ment says it is in­vest­ing £1.4bn in chil­dren’s men­tal health. Al­most half of chil­dren in care have a di­ag­nos­able men­tal health dis­or­der, the MPs heard, com­pared with about one in 10 chil­dren who are not in care.

But pro­vi­sion for chil­dren in care with men­tal health prob­lems is poor in many parts of Eng­land, says the re­port. A sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of lo­cal au­thor­i­ties are fail­ing to iden­tify men­tal health is­sues when chil­dren en­ter care, it adds.

And in some ar­eas chil­dren in care can be turned away be­cause their con­di­tions are not deemed se­vere enough to qual­ify for treat­ment. The MPs heard some child and ado­les­cent men­tal health ser­vices (Camhs) were un­will­ing to be­gin treat­ment if a child moved into a new foster place­ment, even if this was within the same lo­cal au­thor­ity.

“Given chil­dren in care may have un­sta­ble fam­ily lives and are fre­quently mov­ing foster or res­i­den­tial place­ment, this in­flex­i­bil­ity puts vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren in care at se­ri­ous disad- van­tage in get­ting the sup­port they de­serve,” said Neil Carmichael, who chairs the com­mit­tee.

“This must change - we rec­om­mend chil­dren in care be given pri­or­ity ac­cess to men­tal health as­sess­ments and never re­fused care based on their place­ment or sever­ity of their con­di­tion.” The com­mit­tee heard ev­i­dence from one 16year-old girl in foster care who had waited for more than two and a half years to be seen by her lo­cal Camhs.

In her ev­i­dence, given last De­cem­ber, the girl told the com­mit­tee she had not been seen be­cause she had moved place­ment 13 times. Her foster carer told the com­mit­tee the 16year-old had been with her for 10 months and was still wait­ing for an ap­point­ment.

This was in spite of of­fi­cial guid­ance that states: “Looked-af­ter chil­dren should never be re­fused a ser­vice, in­clud­ing for men­tal health, on the grounds of their place­ment.” An­nie (not her real name), from Faver­sham, Kent, had been taken into care be­cause she had not felt safe at home - but the experience was “trau­matic” from the out­set, she told MPs.

She said: “They took me out and they could not find me a place­ment at the start, so they ex­pected me to go back to my fam­ily af­ter they had taken me away, an hour later I said, ‘I can’t do that, I’m sorry. My life is at risk if I do that.’” She had had 13 dif­fer­ent place­ments in her first two and a half years in care, she said.

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