Debate on adult mental health services

We asked:- Should adult mental health services also have
a dedicated children’s worker?

These are some of the comments we

“I think this is an area, from my perspective as a child care
social worker, that would enhance the service provision to children
of parents with a mental health difficulty as this group often
might not have their needs being met.

But as the criteria for formal monitoring of an adult with
mental health is often at a higher threshold to monitoring of that
of children, this issue often works against
the needs of children whom require their emotional and physical
needs to be

Having dedicated workers would make it easier to work in a more
joined up fashion, and this might hopefully work to protect the
needs of children in conjunction with the intervention being
offered to the adult.”

Child care social worker


“Those of us trained to be generic social workers remember
the bright future promised us by specialism. It is gratifying to
note that social work now seems to grudgingly acknowledge that
clients lead lives complicated by relationships that transcend
their client ‘label’. 

Rather then just debate the efficacy of specialist child care
workers in mental health settings, I yearn for the discussion that
at least acknowledges that specialism may have been a mistaken

Nihat Erol
Mental health social worker

“Yes!  This would provide appropriate support and services
for younger people entering mental health services, particularly in
relation to children under-16 being assessed under the Mental
Health Act. 

The area where I work does not have approved social workers
based within Child Adolescent Mental Health teams and therefore,
young people are referred to adult services for assessments.  These
situations can leave practitioners feeling they have a lack of
knowledge and the experience required when carrying out complex
assessments with children and younger people. 

Furthermore, when mental health tribunal reports are requested,
it seems more appropriate for these to be provided by practitioners
who have relevant knowledge of resources etc available for
children. Certainly in terms of identifying appropriate
Dot Prince

“I am a support worker in a young carers project. Several of
our children and young people are carers for a member of their
family who have a mental illness. We feel that if a parent suffers
with a mental illness you can not support that person other than
holistically taking in the whole picture.

In my experience, when the children and other carers are
supported in their role the whole family copes with what ever comes

Parents with whatever disability need extra support from
services for their children to be able to reach their potential,
and not to offer this is discrimination. The families I work with
that are supported as a whole unit do extremely well compared to
the families where only the person with the illness is

This poem was written by one of our carers I think it says it

If you asked me how or why,
Would you understand my answer?
When I say she’s not disabled
There’s no M.S, aids or cancer.

No broken bones or paralysis,
She’s neither deaf, mute or blind,
My mum has mental health issues
An illness of the mind.


“It is definitely a good idea to bridge the professional
knowledge and experience gaps when children and young people are
having to cope with adult mental health difficulties in their
parents or carers.

There is a danger the child/young person becomes invisible when
the professional focus is on the adult whose behaviour may be
worrying lots of people, including the child/young person, who may
have had to take on a role caring for their parent/carer, or at
times mediating the parent’s/carer’s behaviour.”
Colin Luger

“There is no doubt that to have dedicated children’s workers
within the holistic adult mental health service is essential.  The
children in the family are sometimes the main carers and/or are to
some degree vulnerable and in need of support.

The question is whether these workers should be directly
employed by the Mental Health Trusts or in partnership with other
providers.  As a retired head teacher I observed many of the
children of parents with mental health problems as needing
considerable support but these needs were not always recognised by
the adult mental health workers. Things have now improved and the
recognition is usually there but not always the resources.

Hopefully, better joint working and information sharing as a
result of the Children’s Bill will rectify the situation, or am I
too optimistic?”

Mike Chapman.
Ex-Head Teacher &
Non-Executive Director Bolton, Salford and Trafford Mental Health

“I think that what is needed is far more resources going into
services for children, both child and adolescent mental health
services and social services child care, and that those services
and adult mental health services need to work more closely together
to provide an integrated approach to this issue.

In Salisbury we have a multi-agency group that meets about four
times a year to try and develop services for children of parents
with mental health problems, and a multi-disciplinary group of
workers has run two very successful groups for these children with
a third one about to start. The age range that seems to be most in
need is 8-12 years.

We are also trying to make the premises of adult mental health
services more child and family friendly, with a welcoming leaflet
and toys available both on the wards and in CMHT
Virginia Middleton-Smith
Social Worker


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