WillisPalmer launches Children’s Charter to support vulnerable children

Children who have suffered neglect and abuse during lockdown need identifying and providing with support as a matter of urgency as they return to school.

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We have a range of qualified therapists able to work with children and families.

Therapy is an integral part of the services that WillisPalmer offers to families, children and young people.

Children and young people who have experienced abuse or neglect often benefit from participating in talking therapies - psychological treatments for mental and emotional problems such as anxiety and depression - while families can often benefit from therapy to tackle deep-seated problems or help them to achieve change within the family setting.

However, given that children and young people are often rejected from specialist NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services due to high thresholds, accessing treatment can often be problematic. In fact over a quarter of referrals to specialist children’s mental health services were rejected in 2018-2019, according to research by the Education Policy Institute.

WillisPalmer offers a wide range of therapeutic interventions and assessments to children or children and families and has a range of qualified and experienced therapists to work with children and families, which can be recommended by local authorities or the courts.

Therapeutic interventions

Art therapy

Art therapy  is an arts-based activity within a therapeutic setting with the help of a trained therapist. It is a type of psychological therapy that uses art to enable the individual to express their thoughts, feelings and emotions. While it can be used with adults and children, it is often beneficial for children who may find it difficult to voice their emotions and feelings.

Play therapy

Play Therapy uses play and creative arts to help children with mild, moderate or chronic mental health problems which may be affecting their behaviour and are hindering children in reaching their full potential.

When it is decided that a child would benefit from play therapy, a trained therapist will carry out sessions with the child in the short to medium term depending on the severity of the problems presented to the therapist.

The therapist will also take into account the child's wider social network including siblings, family, school and peers.


Theraplay is used for children and families and is primarily used to boost self-esteem and enhancing attachment (see above under CBT). It aims to build strong family connections and emotionally stable and resilient bonds.

Four essential qualities are used during theraplay: structure, engagement, nurture and challenge. Sessions aim to create an emotional connection between the child and their parents or carers. The therapist works the parents and child through fun games and developmentally challenging and nurturing activities. Engaging in sessions helps parents and children to connect and engage with one another which can enhance communication and tackle challenging behaviour.

Systemic therapy

Systemic Family Therapy, which has its roots in family therapy, is used in particular when a child or adult experiences mental health problems and when there may be complex distress. The therapist works therapeutically with individuals and families as well as the wider family network to reduce stress and problems for all family members.


Psychotherapy is a therapeutic intervention or talking therapy whereby a trained therapist enables an individual to express their feelings and gain a deeper insight into problems they are experiencing.

Psychotherapy aims to help people explore different ways of thinking to find better ways to cope in a bid to improve mental health and wellbeing. It is often used with people experiencing mental health problems or emotional problems such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) or eating disorders.

A psychotherapist will meet the individual and discuss the problems they are experiencing. They will carry out an assessment of the individual and devise a plan as to how many sessions of psychotherapy are required to address the problems presented.

Behavioural therapy

Behavioural therapy is often used to treat merntal health problems and aims to identify and change what can be seen as self-destructive, unhealthy behaviour. The principle of behavioural therapy is that behaviours are learned and can be changed. This psychotherapy intervention does not involve one specific method but has a wide range of techniques that can be used to treat a person's psychological problems.

Cognitive behavioural therapy

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT is a common method of treating anxiety and depression and works by addressing the way an individual manages their problems and changes behaviour as a result. CBT works on the principle that thoughts, feelings and actions are inter-connected. When problems become overwhelming, the individual can become trapped in a vicious cycle of negative thoughts and CBT works by breaking the problems down into smaller, more manageable parts.

Life story work

Life Story Work is a social work intervention involving children or children and adults which aims to recognise where they come from, their past experiences, current situations and the future. Children and young people who are in care or adopted may have little understanding of why they don't live with their birth parents and why they are in care which can impact on their self-worth and self-esteem. 

Solution-focused therapy

Solution-focused therapy is a form of psychotherapy which looks at solution building rather than problem solving. It is a time-limited approach to enable individuals to use their current resources to address their future aspirations. The therapy acknowledges present problems but focuses on solutions.

Family therapy

Family therapy, also known as systemic psychotherapy and which is a type of psychotherapy, aims to address issues within a family setting. A therapist works with families and those in close relationships to enable them to understand the problems they may be experiencing and support them to communicate better with each other in a bid to resolve conflict.

Why this is important

In November 2018, NHS Digital published figures on the prevalence of mental health problems in children and young people for the first time in 13 years.

The research found:

  • One in eight (12.8%) 5 to 19 year olds had at least one mental disorder when assessed in 2017.
  • Emotional disorders were the most prevalent type of disorder experienced by 5 to 19 year olds in 2017 (8.1%).
  • 5.5% of 2 to 4 year old children experienced a mental disorder, compared to 16.9% of 17 to 19 year olds, showing that the prevalence of mental health problems increased with age.

However, despite the prevalence of mental health problems, particularly emotional disorders, in children and young people, research by the Education Policy Institute found that over a quarter of referrals to specialist NHS children’s mental health services were rejected in 2018-2019.

Shrinking budgets in local authority frontline services and the NHS mean that only children with severe mental health problems meet the high thresholds set by CAMHS for specialist services and support. At the same time, restricted local authority budgets means that many areas have been forced to cut early intervention and preventative services for children and young people which would help identify mental health problems before they escalate to focus cash on crisis child protection cases, meaning many children and young people are missing out on vital support.

Given  50 per cent of mental health problems are established by the age of 14-years-old and 75% are established by the age of 24, the current system is embedding mental ill health among people from an early age and more needs to be done to ensure children and young people exhibiting signs of mental illness are identified, receive a diagnosis and get treatment as early as possible.

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