DfE announces £1m funding for mental health check pilots

By Neil Puffett

| 14 June 2018

Plans to trial mental health assessments for children entering care will be funded to the tune of £1m and will last for two years, the Department for Education has announced.

Nadhim Zahawi said the pilots will help make sure the right support is in place when children enter the care system. Picture: UK Parliament

Up to 10 pilot areas were set to start testing mental health assessments for looked-after children by May last year, but these were delayed as a result of the snap general election, and are still yet to launch.

The Department for Education has awarded £240,000 to a group of organisations, led by the Anna Freud Centre, that includes Action for Children, the Child Outcomes Research Consortium, Research in Practice and the NSPCC, to deliver up the pilots. The pilot areas themselves, which are yet to be announced, will also benefit from a share of £650,000 to deliver the scheme.
 
The DfE said the programme will identify a child's mental health and broader wellbeing needs, including whether a referral to a more specialist service is needed. They will also consider which professionals should be involved in the assessment, and develop best practice that ensures each child's unique needs are at the centre of the process. 
 
Meanwhile, a consortium led by SQW, an economic development and social research organisation, has also been awarded £150,000 to carry out an independent evaluation to look at the effectiveness and impact of the pilots. 

A launch date for the pilots is yet to be finalised, although earlier this month DfE minister Lord Agnew said they would get under way in 2018.

Children's minister Nadhim Zahawi, said: "Children in care are some of the most vulnerable in society and have often experienced traumatic events, so it is vital they receive care and support that is tailored to their needs.
 
"We want to improve support for every child in care and these pilots will help to provide high-quality mental health assessments when children enter the care system and make sure the right support is in place."
 
Sheila Redfern, head of the specialist trauma and maltreatment service at the Anna Freud Centre, said: "We are delighted to have been successful with our bid for these pilots.

"Looked-after children are highly vulnerable to emotional and relationship difficulties, putting them at risk of long-term mental health issues and placement breakdown with their carers, so it is vital they get the right help at the right time.

"The assessment process at an individual level is critical to achieving this. We are very excited to have this opportunity to support improvements through the pilots."

Statistics show that 62 per cent of looked-after children are in care due to abuse or neglect, which can have a lasting impact on their mental health and emotional wellbeing.
 
Currently half of all children in care meet the criteria for a possible mental health disorder, compared with one in 10 children outside the care system.

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