Secure homes failing children with mental health needs

Young people detained in local authority secure children’s homes are not being given the help they need with severe mental health problems.

A new independent report commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills highlights a “serious shortfall” in access to child and adolescent mental health services in secure children’s homes, despite the number of under-18s detained there under the Mental Health Act.

In a survey carried out for the report, every local authority contacted said they felt there was not enough dedicated mental health provision in secure homes despite many secure homes being used for children and young people in lieu of alternative “tier 4” mental health services. Tier 4 refers to highly specialised provision for conditions such as severe eating disorders, psychoses and major depression.

Young people with untreatable mental health conditions also often end up there after they are referred to social services by psychiatrists.

The report concludes that secure units need to provide more CAMH services, substance abuse services, and high quality education, and that this may mean “radical changes” to the way in which units are run.

Acknowledging the importance of secure provision within a comprehensive CAMH service, mental health charity YoungMinds said: “Although relatively few in number, the complex needs of young people requiring secure placement necessitates a comprehensive and tailored response to ensure the best outcome.”

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