This summer (2022), the UK Government published plans for a new 10 year strategy that will improve mental health services across the UK. Accompanying this was a 12 week call for evidence to support and inform the strategy. The UK Government want to identify what can be improved within the current mental health service. They're also keen to develop an understanding of the common causes that lead to mental health problems.
Has NYAS Responded to This Call for Evidence?
The National Youth Advocacy Service (NYAS) recently responded to this consultation. Throughout our response, we emphasised some of the recommendations identified in our Looked After Minds campaign. This NYAS campaign aims to promote positive mental wellbeing for care experienced children and young people.
What did NYAS’ Response Include?
At NYAS, we are constantly informed by the young people we work with. They regularly tell us that the improvement of mental health services is one of the top priorities for them. This call for evidence is the perfect opportunity for us to emphasise the importance of reform for the mental health services received by care experienced young people.
The primary areas that our response focused on include:
NYAS believes that mental health support must be proactive, preventative, and meet the mental health needs of the individual before they develop into crisis.
Reducing the waiting time for Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) or adult mental health services is vital. This will ensure that children and young people are better supported when they need it, rather than developing further problems during a long wait.
We strongly believe that alternative support must be offered to a young person who is waiting for or denied access to CAMHS or adult mental health services. This is essential to prevent their mental health from deteriorating even further.
From countless research studies, we know that when children face traumatic experiences (adverse childhood experiences), this can have a negative and often severe impact on their mental health and quality of life.
Any service offering trauma-related mental health support to care experienced children and young people should ensure that evidence-based assessments and treatments are conducted.
Care experienced children and young people must be supported to lead fulfilling lives so that they can reach their full potential.
Any support offered must be all-encompassing, addressing all their mental health needs. Removing a child from an adverse or traumatic environment is not enough. We cannot assume that this single action will lead to a full improvement in their mental health. Children need love and support to flourish.
Finally, our submission highlighted our ‘Looked-After Minds’ report which places emphasis on the seven positive childhood experiences that all children and young people should experience:
- Talking with family members about their feelings.
- Feeling that their families stood by them during difficult times.
- Enjoying participating in community traditions.
- Feeling a sense of belonging in high school.
- Feeling supported by friends.
- Having at least two non-parent adults take a genuine interest in them.
- Feeling safe and protected by an adult in their home.
Why is this Call for Evidence Important for Children in Care and Care Leavers?
Meeting the mental health needs of children and young people must be a priority for every child entering the care system – and for as long as support is needed. Failing to address mental health problems will only lead to the continued cycle of children going into care.
We know that children and young people can overcome adversity. But to see and realise their full potential, every child needs help and positive experiences.
NYAS will continue to champion the voices of children and young people. We will campaign for every child in care to have access to the mental health support they need to thrive.