Improved access to mental health services should be made available as standard practice for children and young people in care, according to new guidance from National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE).
There are over 60,000 children and young people under the care of local authorities in England at any one time, with over half experiencing emotional and mental health problems.
While many children and young people have positive experiences in care, many do not and are unable to stay in the same place with the same carers, or attend the same school for extended periods of time.
The guidance aims to address this by calling for a whole systems approach from educational, health and social care organisations, professionals and carers to communicate and collaborate more effectively to improve standards of care across the country.
The guidelines state that flexible and accessible mental health services should be made available at the right time and by the right people with the capacity and expertise to work with children and young people with particular needs, and those that care for them.
Particular attention to access should be made for black and minority ethnic children and young people, unaccompanied asylum seeking children and young people and for young people entering secure accommodation or custody.
Dennis Simpson, Chair of the committee that developed the guidance and previously a director of social services in inner London, cautioned: "Looked-after children should be regarded as a priority group by mental health services, but often there are delays which hinder access for this group."
Elsewhere, the guidance highlights the importance of providing practical support and encouragement before and during further higher education. The guidance also highlights the importance of high quality, accessible services and support for young people leaving care, and keeping accurate and up-to-date health information.
Amanda Edwards, Deputy Chief Executive of SCIE, added: "This guidance focuses on how local agencies can work together by, for example, ensuring that looked-after children and young people have good access to mental health services or that good, joint-agency support is provided to foster parents."
Download the guidance below, or click here to visit the NICE website for more information.