Barnardo’s is calling on the government to ensure that some of the £1.4bn promised to improve children’s mental health is used to support vulnerable care leavers.
The children’s charity has raised concerns about the unmet needs of care leavers with mental health problems in a report ‘Neglected Minds’.
The report highlights how two thirds of care leavers identified as having mental health needs were not receiving any help from a statutory service. The research suggests that almost half of the 26,340 care leavers in England may be experiencing mental health problems.
One in four care leavers had faced a mental health crisis since leaving care, the report warned.
Barnardo’s Chief Executive, Javed Khan said: “Our research shows a shocking picture of care leavers in need with no access to suitable mental health support. Young people who have been in care often experience poor mental health ranging from anxiety to serious problems following abuse or neglect. The Government must ensure these vulnerable young people receive the support they so desperately need when it honours its pledge to improve children’s mental health.”
The research also highlighted that often people working with care leavers have insufficient knowledge about mental health and are therefore ill-placed to help support care leavers. The services that are available can often be inflexible, according to the charity, for example with cut off points at age 18. Disturbingly, Barnardo’s workers reported a number of cases where they were unable to access support for a young person despite incidents of self-harm and suicide attempts.
The children’s charity wants clinical commissioning groups to invest more in services specifically aimed at meeting the needs of young people leaving care. This could include embedding a mental health worker within leaving care teams or developing youth specific services for people into their early 20s.
In addition, those working with care leavers need better skills to help identify and support young care leavers experiencing mental health problems.