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Mental health assessment pilots planned for June 2019

Pilot projects to assess the mental health of children entering care will be launched from June 2019, it has emerged.

Following the publication of the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Green Paper, the Department for Education (DfE) has funded a pilot scheme to give children in care better mental health assessments as they enter the care system.

Research has shown that children and young people in care are far more likely to have a diagnosed mental disorder and are at elevated risk of mental health difficulties compared to non-looked after children.

"There are some concerns with the current mental health assessment methods on entry to care, found at times to be ‘inconsistent’, ‘often poor’ and ‘fail[ing] to identify those in need of specialist care and support’. Furthermore, initial assessments are ‘rarely completed by qualified mental health professionals with an appreciation of the varied and complex issues looked-after children may present’," said a document produced by the group delivering the pilot, which is led by the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families.

Up to 10 pilots across the country will trial new mental health assessments to help ensure that young people are assessed at the right time, with a focus on their individual needs. The group has been commissioned to deliver the pilots over two years.

The document says the aim of the pilots is to understand how to improve the mental health and emotional wellbeing assessments that looked-after children receive when they enter care so that they are carried out consistently as part of the health assessment and:

a) are thorough and of good quality, enabling accurate identification of need;
b) occur at the right time; and
c) are needs focused and person centred.

The objectives of the pilots are to ensure that effective assessments are carried out, that appropriately skilled professional(s) carry out the assessment, that assessments occur at the right time and that the assessments are person centred and needs focused.

AFNCCF and partners will work with pilot areas to trial the new assessment framework. The pilot areas will benefit from investment to deliver the scheme, over a period of two year.

"Currently, there is wide variability in how mental health assessments are carried out, and a common barrier is the difficulty of engaging a child or young person in a discussion about their emotional well-being," said the document produced by the group. " This project aims to develop a shared stance and language across all key people involved in the young person’s life."

"Our ambition is to change this dynamic and to put the child and young person at the heart of their emotional well-being, with as few appointments as possible with multiple professionals," it added.

The document confirms that the projects will begin set up between December 2018 and February 2019. Between March and April 2019, training will be provided with implementation planned for June 2019 to May 2020.

A £650k implementation support grant is available for distribution across pilot areas and AFNCCF will work with DfE to allocate and distribute these funds.

AFNCCF will then support areas to develop a schedule of work and agree a budget through the initial pilot site visits in November/ December. Funding should cover the cost of testing the assessment process and must not be used to fund services/interventions prescribed as a result of the assessment as pilot areas must already have the capacity to provide this.

The DfE has commissioned an independent evaluation of the pilots and sharing from the pilots will be shared from June to December 2020.

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