Children in care ‘too often denied mental health treatment’
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.