A grant will be awarded for a pilot project to improve the way children and young people’s mental health needs are met as they enter care.
The pilot project will run for two years and will aim to ensure children entering care are assessed at the right time, by the right people, with a focus on their individual needs and experiences.
It will look to reduce the number of appointments children attend with multiple professionals and make use of the child’s existing relationships in meeting their emotional wellbeing needs.
The central Government funding has been awarded to North Yorkshire County Council to trial a new framework which should ultimately improve the mental health and emotional wellbeing of looked after children and young people.
North Yorkshire is one of nine local authorities in the UK to receive a share of £650,000 to trial a new approach to undertaking mental health assessments. This project aims to develop a shared stance and language across all key people involved in the young person’s life with them being at the centre.
Cllr Janet Sanderson, Executive Member for the Children and Young People’s Service, said being part of the pilot will help them better understand children’s wellbeing needs from the very beginning and prevent mental health issues escalating.
“We listened to young people when they asked us to help support their mental health needs,” she said. “Being part of this project is a great opportunity to ensure each child gets help that is right for them, at the right time. As we roll out this pilot, we will continue to listen to young people every step of the way.”
The news has been welcomed by Shannon Downing, 22, who was recently made chair of the Young People’s Council, a youth voice group for those who have experienced care in North Yorkshire.
Shannon was in care between the ages of 12 and 16, and is involved in the project. She said she felt the main issue for many looked after children and their mental health was having one person consistently involved with them.
“The main thing is having a person who stays with you throughout,” she said.
“Having lots of different faces can be quite distressing for some people, especially if they have anxiety or different mental health issues.
“The other important issue is getting the right support for each individual; getting them on the right track and making them feel happier.”
Shannon has made it her mission to ensure the experiences and opinions of looked after children are heard and both positive and negatives experiences of care are understood. As well as being involved with the Young People’s Council, she is currently working on a project in London for care leavers, called National Coram Voice.
She added: “If this pilot is successful, then I just want for young people who want it, to have the support they need. That’s a big tick in the box.”
The money was awarded to the council’s Children and Families Service (CFS) who will partner with Tees, Esk and Wear Valley NHS Foundation Trust on the project.
The service recently consulted with young people when developing its strategy for looked after children, ‘We Care Because You Matter’. One of the issues young people raised was a wish for better access to mental health provision and support for mental wellbeing. This pilot should help form part of the council’s strategy in helping meet those needs. A young person currently in care will also be appointed to act as a young advisor in the pilot.
The pilot scheme will be one of a number of initiatives run by North Yorkshire’s Children and Young People’s Service to ensure more creativity and flexibility in meeting children’s mental health needs and improve wellbeing.
The council already has psychologists in social work teams through the Psychologically Informed Partnership Approach (PIPA).
North Yorkshire is known nationally for its innovation and drive in making a positive difference to the lives of the county’s most vulnerable children, young people and their families.
It received an ‘outstanding’ grade in every category last year for its children and families service under an inspection framework which focuses on the effectiveness of frontline practice. The council is also appointed by the Department for Education as a Partner in Practice supporting and enabling improvement in other local authorities.