Nagalro Press Release: HOW THE GAPS IN CHILDREN’S MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES ARE BEING FILLED BY THE COURTS AND DRUG DEALERS
Analysis of NHS data by mental health charity Young Minds has shown that, in May 2023, there were record numbers of children referred to mental health crisis teams. According to Nagalro, because there are nowhere near enough mental health facilities, local authority children’s services teams and the courts are being forced to try to protect children who are in desperate need of medical care but are not receiving it. Yvonne Wilson, the Chair of Nagalro, is an independent social worker and children’s guardian who regularly acts on behalf of children with difficult mental health problems and who are facing severe restrictions on their freedom under Deprivation of Liberty orders. These orders are made by the High Court when no other solutions, such as a bed in a secure children’s home are available. Ms Wilson says that, long before matters come to this stage, children with, for example, ADHD should be receiving medication to deal with this. However, the medication cannot be prescribed until the child has been properly diagnosed. Spiralling delays in referrals and appointments mean that children are often shut out of essential medication and some turn to cannabis in order to self-medicate, in place of the medicines they ought to be receiving.
She explains that, according to data published by the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory, in the 12 months since 4 July 2022, the National Deprivation of Liberty court dealt with 1249 children who should have been receiving proper mental health care. Instead of this, local authority children’s services are forced to devise enormously expensive bespoke solutions, sometimes just to keep children alive. The Chair of Nagalro says that many of these children have severe mental health issues, including autism, self-harming and repeated suicide attempts.
Almost all of the orders required the child to be subject to constant supervision. The majority of orders require 2:1 supervision. Orders are also likely to require doors and windows where the child stays to be locked, permit the use of physical restraint, if necessary, and contain restrictions on internet use. Ms Wilson says that these bespoke placements for children, many of whom should have been given hospital beds and treatment, secure accommodation, or a suitable placement with sufficient packages of care, come at a great cost to the children who are isolated from their peers and family and have only a few hours of education each week. ‘Many of the children I work with are young people who find themselves moved a long way from their home, have lost the ability to socialise and are without anything other than minimal education.’ The children are, in effect, punished rather than treated.
Nagalro is also concerned that deprivation of liberty orders are doing very little to provide the mental health treatment that these children really require. Ms Wilson says that she is aware of one child who has been under these draconian restrictions for two years. ‘There is no doubt’ she says ‘that the court and the social work staff dealing with these children are genuinely doing the best that they can for these children. However, what is required is specialist mental health facilities and treatment and these are simply not available.’ There needs to be a real commitment from this government to properly fund mental health resources for children. We are not, as a society, taking sufficient responsibility for the ability of young people to become independent, functioning adults with an ability to be independent and manage their own lives. In effect, we are creating a generation of failed children and young people.
For further please information contact: Nagalro office 01372 818504 and email@example.com
Notes to Editors:
- Nagalro is the professional association for Family Court Advisers, Children’s Guardians and Independent Social Workers. Its members represent the interests of children in a range of public and private law proceedings. Nagalro members are senior, highly experienced children and family social workers who work in a variety of roles. Many work as independent social workers and risk assessors providing expert witness reports in a wide range of complex cases coming before the family courts; in fostering and adoption agencies; in independent practice providing therapeutic services; as academics; as supervisors, mentors and consultants. Members have significant experience as managers, chairs of Adoption Panels and other specialist social work practitioner roles.
- The Nagalro website is at www.nagalro.com