Scie urges overhaul of parental mental health services

Councils and their partners must fundamentally overhaul services for parents with mental health problems and their children to ensure families are adequately supported and children safeguarded.

That was the message from the Social Care Institute for Excellence today, as it launched a five-year plan to support adult mental health, children’s social care and other agencies to provide a holistic response to families.

Guidance on parental mental health and child welfare published today proposed  reforms to assessment, training and management, and Scie is looking to work with six areas in implementing them before sharing practice with the rest of the country.

Separate frameworks

It said adult mental health and children’s social care services were failing to meet families’ needs due to separate legal frameworks and policy and practice guidance. While staff were aware of the problems, they needed more effective guidance and support from service leaders.

Families needed practical support, free from the fear of losing parental responsibility, while children, including young carers, wanted relevant information about their parents’ illnesses and the chance to make and see friends.

Scie said families needed to be offered joined-up support that intervened early to manage crises, built resilience in families and secured child safety.

Map current provision

It called for agencies to map the services currently available to see how they met families’ needs, and then initiate a “think family strategy” to reform provision, including targets for organisations and managers to ensure changes are prioritised.

Specific recommendations included that:-

  • Existing assessment processes for children and adults should be adapted to take account of the whole family, with appropriate staff training.
  • Access to services should be based on family threshold criteria that take into account the individual and combined needs of children, parents and carers.
  • New screening tools should be developed to identify adults with mental health problems and their children.
  • Parents should be reassured that identifying a need for support is a way of avoiding rather than starting child protection measures. Agencies should develop communications strategies to tackle the stigma around receiving support as a priority.
  • Adult mental health and children’s social care professionals should receive joint training.
  • A new leadership programme for adult and children’s social work supervisors and managers should be developed.

Scie is holding a conference on the issue in London today.

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