There must be clearer targets for agencies to improve healthcare for looked-after children, a parliamentary inquiry has heard.
Charities told the the Commons children, schools and families committee that councils and primary care trusts to needed to refocus their priorities.
Giving evidence to the inquiry into the needs of looked-after children, Sue Dunstall, policy adviser for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, called for specific indicators for looked after children for both local authorities and PCTs. She said looked after children’s complex physical and emotional health needs could be overshadowed by “softer” targets such as obesity.
Helen Chambers, National Children’s Bureau, principal officer for well-being, said the health of looked-after children falls between the high demands faced by health and children’s services. “The health of looked after children is everybody’s business, but actually it is nobody’s business,” she said.
Concern was also expressed over the provision of health assessments, which looked-after children should get at regular intervals. Ms Dunstall described the current assessment process as “perilously poor, particularly in its inconsistency”.
Dr Rita Harris, of the Care Matters Partnership, added: “A lot of early psychological difficulties are over-looked because the health assessment is not holistic enough.” She added that improvements could be made by having more dedicated children and adolescent mental health services for looked after children and that these should support and train the wider workforce.
The evidence to the inquiry, given last week, will inform potential amendments to the Children’s and Young Person’s Bill and the Care Matters: Time for Change White Paper.