Chloë Cockett, Policy and Research Manager, said:
“While we welcome the ambitious scope of the Prime Minister’s plans, we are concerned that mental health support for children in care and care leavers is still not being prioritised, despite a clear and pressing need. The majority of children in care have experienced abuse or neglect and over half of children in care have a diagnosed mental health condition. Care leavers are five times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers.
“Last year, the Education Select Committee report Mental health and wellbeing of looked after children concluded that provision for children in care is ‘poor in many areas’, with a significant number of local authorities ‘failing to identify mental health issues when children enter care’. The report also drew attention to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) turning away vulnerable young people because they are not in a stable placement.
“The government has made a welcome commitment to pilot health assessments for children entering care. As part of the Alliance for Children in Care and Care Leavers, we believe the right to a mental health and emotional wellbeing assessment should be enshrined in law to ensure it is prioritised appropriately, and to cover both children in care and care leavers. Corporate parenting principles set out in the Children and Social Work Bill state that local authorities should have regard to children and young people’s physical and mental health. Unless underpinned by primary legislation and dedicated funding, these ambitions are unlikely to be transformed into reality.
“We’d like to take this opportunity to remind the Prime Minister that she and her government are the ultimate corporate parents for thousands of children in care and care leavers across the country. As the Prime Minister said herself prior to the speech: no parent should feel helpless when watching their child suffer. As a corporate parent, we believe she has the power to act. As a first step, she must ensure that the Care Quality Commission review of CAMHS and the new Green Paper on children and young people’s mental health pay particular attention to the needs of this group.”