Provision of Mental Health Services for Care Leavers: Transition to adult services

Jennie Harland, Richard White, Mary Atkinson, Emily Lamont

19 October 2009

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The Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000, which came into force in October 2001, was designed to address the wide variation in local authority provision for care leavers and to promote a more ‘holistic’ or multi-dimensional approach to the process of leaving care. It is recognised that care leavers are at greater risk of mental health difficulties than young people generally and that they may experience additional stresses at the transitional period from leaving care. In light of this, the Local Government Association asked the NFER to examine the extent to which recent developments have improved outcomes for young people leaving care, particularly those with mental health difficulties. The research draws upon interviews with service providers and care leavers from three local authorities. It examines the views of service users and service providers, the coordination and availability of services, outcomes and the contribution of voluntary organisations.

Key Findings

  • Leaving care teams, in particular, personal advisers, play a crucial role in ensuring that the needs of care leavers with mental health difficulties are addressed.
  • Most of the young people value the support they receive, particularly from the leaving care team, although they stress that improvements could still be made.
  • The need for specialised services for 16 to 21 year olds is strongly apparent and a lack of appropriate accommodation for care leavers, particularly those with mental health difficulties, is also evident. The value of specialist mental health advice and support within leaving care teams is highlighted.
  • Voluntary services to support care leavers with mental health difficulties are perceived as particularly effective for meeting low-level mental health needs. However, those supporting care leavers sometimes lack of awareness of these services.
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