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Improving mental health support for children and young people

The Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) has released it's Expert Working Group Final Report on imporving mental health support for children and young people.

Download the report.

Executive summary

In February 2016 the Department for Education (DfE) minister announced that an Expert Working Group would be created to ensure that the emotional and mental health needs of children and young people in care, adopted from care, under kinship care, under Special Guardianship Orders, as well as care leavers, would be better met. It was proposed that, by October 2017 the following would be developed:

  • care pathways: focusing on the young person’s journey
  • models of care: how services ensure appropriate interventions
  • quality principles: measures that set out markers of high-quality care
  • implementation products: to support those working in the field.

The charity Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) was contracted by the Department of Health (DH) and the Department for Education to establish the Expert Working Group to support this work.

We believed that it was absolutely essential that our work was co-produced with children and young people, and over 80 contributed their experience and evidence to the project. We also heard from those looking after young people and approximately 100 professionals including looked after children nurses, doctors, birth parents, social workers, residential key workers, foster carers and adoptee parents. All of these groups attended our stakeholder event in April 2017.

The Expert Working Group gathered evidence from a review of literature about what the mental health needs of looked after children were, and held a Call for Evidence of good practice. The group also considered what a good system to support the health and wellbeing of looked after children would look like, and described its key features.

One of the key issues that we recognised was that good quality ongoing assessment must be the foundation of a comprehensive strategy of support and services. The feedback from young people, stakeholders and the Expert Working Group itself was that the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) by itself is not an effective way of measuring the mental health and emotional wellbeing of young people.

One of the strongest views of the Expert Working Group was that local areas need to be able to provide consistent care and support for a child, with an understanding that their diagnosis and therefore the type of support services they need can change. Therefore, assessment and services must be responsive and flexible. Mental health is a continuum and cannot be seen as a one-off diagnosis.

For one of our consultations we met 35 children and young people who had accessed provision from across health services including specialist in patient care (‘Tier 4’ provision). We asked them to create recommendations to include in our report, so that their voice was clear and strong. We present their 11 recommendations here, before our own, because their voice is the context in which our work should best be more.

Taken from

Related event:

Transforming Mental Health Services for Children & Young Adults
Monday 26 February 
De Vere West One Conference Centre, London

9 November 2017


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