Achieving emotional wellbeing for looked after children: a whole system approach

What works in promoting good emotional wellbeing and mental health for children in care

Children in care are four times more likely to have a mental health problem than children living with their birth families. These mental health needs are often unmet, which increases children’s risk of a variety of poor outcomes including placement instability and poor educational attainment.

This report provides recommendations and evidence for how the care system can be changed to prioritise and achieve good emotional wellbeing for all looked after children and care leavers. It is part of our Impact and evidence series. The Wales briefing is also available in Welsh.

Authors: Louise Bazalgette, Tom Rahilly and Grace Trevelyan
Published: 2015

Download Achieving emotional wellbeing for looked after children: a whole system approach
Download the report (PDF)
Download NSPCC Cymru/Wales briefing - Achieving emotional wellbeing for looked after children: a whole system approach
Download the report (PDF)

Key findings

We worked with four local authorities in the UK to investigate how to redesign the care system to improve support for the emotional wellbeing of looked after children.

Our project involved asking children in care, care leavers, carers and professionals from health, social care and education services about their experience of the care system and what changes they would like to see.

Findings

  • The emotional wellbeing and mental health of looked after children should not be thought of as the responsibility of specialist mental health services. We need a whole system across social care and health that prioritises the emotional wellbeing of children in care and care leavers.
  • An estimated £6.4 million each year could be saved in the UK if children's mental health needs were met and as a result they stayed in a stable placement.

Five priorities for change

Embed an emphasis on emotional wellbeing throughout the system

Professionals working in the care system need the skills and knowledge to understand how they can support the emotional wellbeing of looked after children and young people.

Embed an emphasis on emotional wellbeing throughout the system

Professionals working in the care system need the skills and knowledge to understand how they can support the emotional wellbeing of looked after children and young people.

Take a proactive and preventative approach

Support for looked after children should begin with a thorough assessment of their emotional and mental health needs.

Give children and young people voice and influence

Looked after children and young people need more opportunities to identify what is important to them and influence their own care.

Support and sustain children’s relationships

Children’s carers require training and support to be sensitive, understanding and resilient.

Support care leavers’ emotional needs

Help young people identify and strengthen their support networks.

Download the NSPCC Cymru/Wales briefing

> Download NSPCC Cymru/Wales briefing - Achieving emotional wellbeing for looked after children: a whole system approach (PDF)

> Dadlwythwch Biff gan NSPCC Cymru/Wales - Cyflawni lles emosiynol ar gyfer plant sy'n derbyn gofal: dull system gyfan (PDF)

"Sometimes people think children in care are different. But that’s wrong. Everyone deserves to be listened to."

Young person in care

Citation

Please cite as: Bazalgette, L., Rahilly, T. and Trevelyan, G. (2015) Achieving emotional wellbeing for looked after children: a whole system approach. London: NSPCC.

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