Peers have pressed for amendments to the Children and Young Persons Bill to ensure better assessment and access to health care for looked-after children.
During a debate on the bill in the House of Lords this week, peers urged the government to accept amendments to place a duty on primary care trusts to assess children as soon as a care order is made and to improve mental health services for children placed outside of their local area.
Baroness Meacher argued that the mental health needs of looked-after children would not be given sufficient priority without primary legislation.
She said placing a duty on primary care trusts would put looked-after children’s access to mental healthcare on the same level as their access to education. “If a looked-after child needs a school place, they go to the top of the list automatically. This is not the case for children using mental health services. Yet without mental healthcare, these children will not be able to take advantage of the education,” she said.
Baroness Butler-Sloss, formerly the most senior family court judge in England, said she had seen many cases going through the care system where both PCTs and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services had been “inadequate”.
Baroness Howarth of Breckland argued: “It is very clear that unless we take action children will not get the kind of service they need to promote their health, which will leave a huge gap in the government’s policy…to make sure that the total holistic needs of the child are met. This barrier in improving the outcomes for children is not the ill will of the staff of the PCTs but because of the structure that exists, and the government will need to intervene.”
Responding for the government, junior schools minister Lord Adonis said an independent review of Camhs would report in the summer and pledged to revise statutory guidance for healthcare bodies to promote the health of looked-after children.
The bill continues its passage through parliament in the committee stage in the House of Lords this week.