All youth offending teams should have a specialist mental health
worker, according to research published by the Mental Health
Foundation this week.
The report says young offenders are at least three times more
likely to have mental health problems than the general population,
yet there are few screening processes for detecting mental health
problems in the youth justice system in England.
“Overall (with some exceptions of course), the mental health
needs of young offenders are not being met by existing services,”
the report says.
Expertise and resources are lacking within institutions in
particular, the report finds. There are problems in providing
specialist services and in referring young people to existing
children and adolescent mental health services. The mental health
needs of young offenders pose significant problems, including
confusion over which agency should provide services, lack of staff
training, and lack of research.
The MHF recommends the development of national
multi-disciplinary criteria to assist professionals in identifying
links between potential offending behaviour and mental health
problems at an earlier stage in the young person’s development. It
also urges the government to review CAMHS, with the aim of
developing a national multi-agency service.
The charity says social and health services could provide more
flexible and accessible services for this vulnerable group by
directing mainstream funding towards developing partnership
projects that have shared eligibility criteria and joint working
– The Mental Health of Young Offenders Bright Futures:
Working with Vulnerable Young People from www.mentalhealth.org.uk