A pending study from Kingston University, London will assess how mental health and well-being support can be improved for young people and children in care.
The Kingston University researchers will be working alongside several key partner organisations to launch a significant research project. The study will examine the effectiveness of mental health services on offer to children and young people who have been involved with a social worker.
The study will be a collaboration between Kingston University, the University of Cambridge, King’s College London, the National Children’s Bureau, the British Association of Social Workers and the Care Leavers Association. Data from more than 70,000 young people and children who had experiences in the care sector across two NHS trusts in South London, and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
The project will be funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) and What Works for Children’s Social Care. The project will focus on qualitative contributions from young people and children in care, as well as their parents.
Qualitative data will be key in the study
At the heart of the project, which has been funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) and What Works for Children’s Social Care, will be qualitative contributions by young people and parents with direct experience of mental health and wellbeing interventions within the social care system.
The researchers have expressed their hope that their study will have a significant impact on how social care and mental health services are delivered to young people and children in care over the next two decades.
The project will aim to identify the factors that influence why a young person or child’s referral to mental services is accepted or rejected. The project will also aim to understand which treatments work for young people, the cost-effectiveness of these treatments and how young people with social care involvement are depicted within mental health service case notes.
Improving policy for young people and children in care
The first findings from the study are expected in 2023 and will include an analysis covering different forms of adversity experienced by young people with and without social care involvement. It will also include an analysis of inequalities experienced by young people and children in care. Qualitative analysis of case notes on young people’s safeguarding needs and histories of adversity will also be presented.
The findings of the research will be shared with government policymakers and should provide crucial evidence on which approaches work. The research team are also encouraging practitioners to get involved with the project in conjunction with the British Association of Social Workers.
“Access to effective mental health provision is crucial for improving outcomes for vulnerable children and requires robust evidence to underpin the partnership between children’s social care and CAMHS. This study will go a long way to providing that evidence and encouraging policies to strengthen services in this vital area,” said Rick Hood, Professor of Social Work at Kingston University.
“This programme will provide us with crucial evidence about how mental health teams and social workers collaborating can provide better support for children and young people in the care system, evidence that could change policies and strengthen the system that children in care rely on,” added Anna Feuchtwang, Chief Executive of the National Children’s Bureau.