An expert group set up last year to improve mental health support for children in care, said those working closely with looked-after children, including foster carers, children's home staff and special guardians, often lack training to support their often complex mental health needs.

report by the group, published today, calls for all those working with looked-after children to receive specific children and young people's mental health training "so they are equipped with the appropriate skills" to support them.

This should have a particular focus on managing behavior and be consistent across sectors, so that all professionals and carers are adopting the same approach, the report adds.

"A whole system framework of training that prepares and supports carers and professionals, respecting their roles in supporting young people, is crucial," the report states.

"This collaborative approach would both provide those at the frontline of supporting our young people with the resources to respond to and contain a range of behaviours and mental health needs, and ensure that everyone involved in their care is coming from the same understanding and knowledge base.

The key recommendations from the working group are extensive including recommendations to review Ofsted's regulatory frameworks.  

Key Risks Include The Following Recommendations

There is insufficient accountability in the current system.

1. Clinical Commissioning Groups should ensure commissioning is informed by a Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) which addresses the mental health and wellbeing needs of looked after children and care leavers. This should be reflected in Local Transformation Plans.

2. The Local Safeguarding Children Board, Corporate Parent Board and Health and Wellbeing Board should give appropriate priority to ensuring that the mental health needs of children and young people in care and leaving care are met.

3. Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons should review their regulatory frameworks linked to registration to ensure that equal weight and attention is being given to mental and physical health needs.

4. The statutory review of the child’s care plan by the independent reviewing officers must include at each meeting a review of whether mental health needs have been met.

The outcomes include key recommendations for the Children and Young People's workforce including support for carers and workers own mental health and well-being. 

Children and Young People's Workforce Recommendations Include

Foster carers, special guardians, kinship carers, adoptive parents and those providing first-line support in children’s homes are recognised and valued as members of the workforce. They are provided with opportunities for training and development and are included in decision-making. They have access to support and advice from specialist mental health services for their own mental health and that of the child for whom they are caring.

Key risk

Those working directly with young people do not always receive sufficient training to support complex mental health needs.


1. Caregivers should receive support for their own mental health and wellbeing.

2. Everyone working directly with looked after children should receive training on children and young people’s mental health so they are equipped with the appropriate skills.

New models offer practice advice to support mental health and well-being outcomes for looked after children and young people.

A series of model, eco-maps and decision trees represent an approach that allows the child or young person to access timely intervention and support that is responsive to their needs has been designed to support practice. It can be activated by anyone within the child or young person’s network, with a recognition that mental health is a continuum.

The outcomes and recommendations are far reaching and extend vital support to looked after children and those who care for them. They set out recommendations system wide across care, health and education and include a website for children and young people outlining the care and support recommended.