A joint report from Ofsted, Care Quality Commission (CQC), HMI Constabulary, Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) and HMI Probation has been published. It looks at how partners in six local authority areas are working together to support children who experience mental health difficulties. It is based on inspections carried out between September 2019 and February 2020, before the Covid-19 pandemic.
The report finds that restructures of child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), along with a concerted effort by agencies to work together, has broadened the help available for a range of mental health needs. This has also led to more timely identification, referrals and support. In many cases, professionals are knowledgeable and can recognise the signs of mental ill health. A single point of access for specialist advice on mental health is helping professionals respond more effectively, as are co-located services and improved involvement of voluntary and community sector organisations.
However, some agencies are identified as needing to improve at recognising children who are suffering from mental ill health, as in some cases professionals still focus on presenting issues and do not look beyond them for possible risks of mental ill health. The report explains that this applied to some staff in emergency departments, GPs, police and social workers, even in some circumstances where a child has self-harmed or behaves in a way that indicates they have suffered trauma. The report also says that “too often”, a child’s mental health problem is first picked up when they enter the youth justice system.
The report acknowledges that schools have an important role to play in supporting children’s mental health, but explains that they cannot do it alone. Where schools are well supported by partners, children get specialist help when they need it, but there is a significant variation in the quality of support that children receive from school nurses, and nursing services in half of the areas visited did not have the systems in place nor the capacity to identify children with mental health problems, meaning that opportunities to spot issues early were missed.
The report found that many police forces in areas visited have well-developed training and support for officers to recognise and help children with mental ill health, but this is not consistent in all areas. Inspectors saw a number of examples of children being kept in custody overnight and who were not helped to get the support that they needed with their mental health.
Despite improvements in partnership working being made in some areas, the report finds that specialist CAMHS are still limited in some areas and resources are overstretched. Some of the most vulnerable children have to wait too long for their mental health needs to be identified and to get access to specialist services. This includes children with autism, ADHD, some children on child in need and child protection plans, and children in care.
You can read the full report here.