Merton to pilot better mental health assessments for children entering care

Merton Council has been chosen to pilot a new approach to give children coming into the care system better mental health assessments.

Merton is one of nine local authorities selected to take part in the two-year pilot, which is funded by the Department for Education, and run by the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, along with a consortium of partners including Action for Children, Research in Practice and the Child Outcomes Research Consortium.

The pilot will conclude with an evaluation and the findings will be shared with other councils across the country.

The announcement was made during Children’s Mental Health Week, which runs from 4 -10 February.

Merton Council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Councillor Kelly Braund, said: “We are delighted to have been chosen to take part in such an important pilot, which has the potential to provide significantly better support to some of our most vulnerable young people at a very difficult point in their lives.

“Nationally, too many children come into our care with mental health issues which have gone undiagnosed and better mental health assessments will ensure that we can provide support tailored to each child’s needs. There is a strong link between a child’s mental and physical health, so improving their wellbeing can also benefit their overall health.”

Director of Research in Practice, Dez Holmes, said: “The calibre of applications received showed local areas are making great strides towards improving the mental health assessments for children entering care through innovative practices, partnership working, as well as a strong operational and strategic commitment to improving the lives and outcomes of children and young people. Areas selected for this project demonstrated a high level of expertise and commitment to innovation and we are delighted to be working with them on this important project.”

The Head of Service, for Specialist Trauma and Maltreatment at the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, Sheila Redfern, said: “We’re excited to begin working with sites on this important project. A new assessment framework is to be introduced, with the child or young person at the heart of these assessments. The approach will be more relational, include the young person’s carer, and bring together views of those around the child. The aim is to increase awareness of the level of the young person’s mental health needs and create a shared understanding of these needs across the important people in the child’s network.”