High praise for council's children’s mental health services


A council has been praised by inspectors for its “highly effective” mental health services to help and protect children and young people.

Bexley Council has been praised for its work in children's mental health. Picture: Bexley Council
Bexley Council has been praised for its work in children's mental health. Picture: Bexley Council

A report published following a joint area inspection carried out by Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission, HMI Constabulary, Fire and Rescue services and HMI Probation found Bexley Council was delivering “excellent services” in response to children’s mental health needs.

Inspectors singled out the authority for its effective partnership working which showed “compassion” and a “vigorous” approach to supporting an ongoing improvement of mental health provision.

“This strong, mature partnership works well to help and protect children. It has a comprehensive knowledge of strengths and areas for improvement and is responsive to external challenge,” the report states.

It highlights the development of a learning hub as an example of the “determined” commitment of partner agencies to the enhancement of multi-agency learning across the partnership.

“This has contributed to improving the provision of services to children and young people with mental health needs,” it adds.

The inspection, which took place between 20 and 24 January, found children were able to access a wide range of services to help support their emotional wellbeing and mental health needs.

Partners worked “well and innovatively” together to provide different avenues of support for children, inspectors said.

Thresholds of need were well publicised across the partnership and partners were clear about the thresholds for referral into children’s social care, they added.

They praised the partnership for addressing needs early to support children and families through a “substantive and highly effective” early help offer.

This includes a wide range of universal and early help services, including children’s centres that support families with children up to two years old, and targeted youth support focused on improving children and young people’s emotional health.

Key strengths of the partnership flagged up by the report were:

  • Stable and effective senior leadership across the partnership with shared priorities and a “robust” multi-agency view of children’s mental health.
  • Agencies display a strong commitment to engaging with children about their emotional wellbeing and mental health.
  • Strong and effective leadership in children’s services with a “clear approach” to developing child-focused practice to support children’s mental and emotional health.
  • An “exceptional” early help family and wellbeing service is ensuring that families have access to a range of well-structured multi-disciplinary services.
  • A dedicated telephone consultation service for professionals ensures that emerging concerns about children are identified and responded to quickly.
  • Education-based interventions support Bexley’s approach to recognising and meeting children’s needs at the earliest opportunity.
  • A joint police and NHS initiative is enabling crisis team nurses to access police transport allowing them to accompany police officers to incidents where professional mental health support is needed.
  • A dedicated mental health police team is co-located with staff dealing with exploited and missing children.
  • Children are assessed by skilled youth offending service staff that understand the links between adverse childhood experiences, emotional wellbeing and mental health and offending behaviour.

Councillor John Fuller, Bexley’s cabinet member for education, said: “I’m pleased that we have again been found to be performing well.

“Mental health is a complex and difficult issue but inspectors recognised that all the partners are working hard to identify and support those children in need.”

Dr Sid Deshmukh, chair of NHS Bexley’s clinical commissioning group, said joint working in Bexley was delivering improved care for young people and their families.

“We know that prompt access to appropriate support enables children and young people experiencing difficulties to maximise their prospects for a healthy and happy life,” he said.

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