Behind the headlines

It often seems that the price of vulnerability is even less
access than everybody else to the very services that would make
life more tolerable. Looked-after children are among the most
vulnerable in society, yet they face immense difficulties in
accessing mental health services despite suffering a higher than
average incidence of mental health problems. These findings emerge
in a new report from the Mental Health Foundation, published to
coincide with Community Care‘s Changing Minds campaign for
better mental health services for children. The report says there
are significant hurdles to receiving help from child and adolescent
mental health services (CAMHS), and calls for a change to the
referral process so that looked-after children can access services
more easily. Access should not necessarily be only through GPs but
also through other professionals such as social workers. The report
says: “Even if the young person can get on to a CAMHS waiting list,
they may well have moved to a different foster or residential
placement, or even out of local authority care by the time their
appointment comes up.”   

Felicity Collier, chief executive, Baaf Adoption &
“This report highlights many areas where change is
desperately important and long overdue. Yet the House of Lords’
debates on support for adopted children have raised questions as to
whether adopted and looked-after children should have speedier
access to services than other children in need. Children in whose
lives the state has intervened and, at some point, parented, must
not compete – their life chances have already been drastically
compromised. In many CAMHS, there is a preference for short-term
work with less deeply needy children – it is vital that very
troubled looked-after and adopted children have the long-term
therapeutic services that can make a difference to their

Julia Ross, social services director and primary care
trust chief executive, London Borough of Barking and Dagenham
“We are still seeing mental health services in an adult
context and require children to go through adult processes to get
help. This isn’t surprising while so many CAMHS are based in mental
health trusts. YoungMinds has long advocated for more responsive
and direct intervention and referral. Let’s hope the National
Service Framework for Children will support different sorts of
intervention and help us urgently tackle the needs of young people
with mental health problems who often end up as offenders, homeless
and in care.”

Karen Warwick, senior practitioner, Barnardo’s
“The mental health needs of looked-after children are
often overlooked as many workers are not skilled enough to
recognise the behaviours associated with mental health
difficulties. I have known self-harm to be regarded as nothing more
than “attention-seeking behaviour” and for young people displaying
this behaviour to be ignored and rejected by their carers.”

Phil Frampton, national chairperson, Care Leavers
“The Mental Health Foundation points out that children in
care lack advocacy. The Care Leavers Association has been pressing
for independent advocates for children in care because the shortage
undermines meeting the expressed needs of children in care.
Advocacy on behalf of children in care needs to be holistic and
supplied by people who understand that their role is to empower
young people, persuade the gatekeepers or scramble over the

Martin Green, chief executive, Counsel and Care for the
“It is clear that looked-after children are often very
vulnerable because of a lack of security they have in their lives.
We have known this for years and yet we still do not have a robust
approach to offering appropriate and timely treatment and support.
The Mental Health Foundation has not only highlighted the issue,
but given some clear guidelines to improve the situation and I hope
the government will give this report and its recommendations their

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