Between 21 July and 31 October 2020, NYAS Cymru launched a nationwide survey across Wales for Kinship and Foster Carers to seek their views on supporting children and young people’s mental health and emotional wellbeing. Our intention was to gain a snapshot of the type of support foster and kinship carers would find useful to them.

The results would help to inform NYAS Cymru’s Newid Project; a supportive programme seeking to promote positive mental health and emotional wellbeing for care-experienced young people aged 16-25. The project has a particular focus on transition, supporting those in need of or who have accessed mental health services and would benefit from further lower-level support to manage their own health and wellbeing. Newid consulted with foster and kinship carers about creating a digital platform with a resource where caregivers can access tools, information and advice on mental health and emotional wellbeing. We asked foster and kinship carers to share their views on what such a digital platform should look like and if this would be beneficial to them.

We wanted to know about access to local advocacy services for care-experienced children and young people and whether foster and kinship carers are aware of advocacy services in their local area. As the national approach to advocacy in Wales states that every child or young person aged 5-17 who becomes a child who is looked after (CLA) must be given the opportunity to have a face-to- face meeting with an advocate, we wanted to know if this measure was impacting on the ground.

We found that of the 189 foster and kinship carers that responded to our survey, whilst 90% feel generally confident in their roles:

  • half do not know an advocate can be used to access mental health services
  • half do not know how to access advocacy services in their area
  • A third want information on rights and entitlements
  • 4/10 want a better understanding of NHS mental health services and systems

When asked what training and support around mental health and emotional wellbeing would be helpful in their role, one foster carer said, “Where you can go to for help in your area quickly. Better access to counsellors, and when we do refer to CAMHS [Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services], which is for me a last resort, that they do actually work with the young person.”

To respond to these figures, NYAS Cymru gathered 4 recommendations for Welsh Government from the data extracted from the report:

Increased access to resources

A resource hub should be set up by the Welsh Government for kinship carers to be able to access up-to-date information and guidance. The hub would also allow kinship carers to connect with one another and provide peer support.

Promoting advocacy

Welsh Government should monitor the consistent application of the active offer of independent advocacy services, as enshrined in legislation through the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014. An active offer of advocacy must be made to young people when transitioning from CAMHS.

Support in the COVID recovery

Welsh Government must create programmes which provide specialist training for foster and kinship carers to give carers the tools they need to support children and young people who have experienced trauma. NYAS also call upon the Welsh Government to sustain funding to programmes specifically designed for careexperienced young people such as the Newid Project. Sustained programme funding utilising trauma informed practices and approaches provides children and young people with stability and a safe space where they can be supported and thrive.

Investing in transitions

NYAS welcomed when Welsh Government accepted NYAS’ recommendation to pause transitions from CAMHS during the pandemic. The long-term impact of COVID-19 is likely to exacerbate the mental health crisis. To stay one step ahead, significant investment is urgently required to support young people to transition from CAMHS. Every care-experienced young person’s Personal Adviser should prioritise support for the young person’s mental health and well-being as a key performance indicator.

Enforcing these recommendations would ensure care-experienced young people are supported and their mental health and wellbeing is prioritised.

Johanne Jones, Newid Development Worker, said, “We are delighted to have received such a high response from kinship and foster carers across Wales. They continue to provide a vital service for children and young people, helping them to flourish and fulfil their potential. At NYAS Cymru, we want to recognise this by seeking out their views, to understand how best to support children and young people with their mental health and emotional wellbeing. I am so thankful to those who took part!”

You can read the full report here.