Today, NYAS (National Youth Advocacy Service) has released the latest report in our Across the Border research series. The series compares issues in England and Wales that impact care-experienced young people, with an aim of encouraging both countries to learn from each other to improve policy and  lives and outcomes of care-experienced young people.

The latest report compares the mental health support available for care-experienced young people in England and Wales. The report ends with a direct message to the UK and Welsh Government to start prioritising the mental health of care-experienced young people across England and Wales, to make sure they have access to the support services that they need.

What We Already Know

Care-experienced children and young people are four times more likely to face mental health issues throughout their lives compared to their peers, and half of all young people currently living in residential care receive some form of mental health support. Often the circumstances why children enter care can be a significant factor behind their mental health issues. Abuse and neglect are the leading causes for why children enter care, and research shows that nine out of ten young people who have experienced abuse or neglect will develop a mental health condition before they turn 18.


This is why NYAS’ Looked After Minds campaign is so important in calling on the UK and Welsh Governments to take urgent action on improving mental health support available for care-experienced children and young people.


Accessing Support

Despite there being a huge need for mental health support for care-experienced young people, the current mental health system is failing and preventing young people from accessing the support they need.  The average waiting time to access mental health services is between eight and 82 days and often referrals made to  (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) for care-experienced young people are rejected.

A lack of stability in a young person’s life, support already being offered from other organisations and a lack of engagement are amongst the top reasons for why referrals made for care-experienced young people are more likely to be rejected.


Currently, 65% of young people who have a mental health need are not receiving any support from services. In Wales, care-experienced children and young people who are moved away from their local area cannot keep their position on waiting lists for mental health support services. When care-experienced young people can access mental health services, they are more likely to build strong relationships with people who care for them, and this is vital for their mental health. Having these strong relationships can create stability, which can protect young people’s mental health.

Looked After Minds

NYAS’ Looked After Minds campaign is calling for the UK and Welsh Governments to prioritise and urgently change current mental health support for care-experienced young people. The campaign has seen successes in Wales after NYAS Cyrmu recommended to the Welsh Government that they pause all transitions from CAMHS to AMHS (Adult Mental Health Services) during the Covid-19 pandemic. This recommendation was accepted and introduced to Local Health Boards across Wales.

In England, the campaign is calling for an ‘opt-out’ offer of advocacy to be offered to all care-experienced young people in England. This would mean that all care-experienced young people are legally entitled to an offer of advocacy and this would improve how their wishes and feelings are heard by professionals.

The campaign is also calling for the UK Government to offer more support for care leavers transitioning out of care and into adulthood, as this can be a particulary challenging time in a young person’s life. One of the ways that NYAS is calling for this to be improved is through extending access to Independent Visitors for care leavers up to the age of 25.

NYAS’ message to all care-experienced people is that we hear you, and we will not stop working to improve your access and standard of mental health and wellbeing support through our ‘Looked After Minds’ campaign