Half of children in care suffer mental health difficulties

Children living in care in the district are more likely to experience mental health difficulties tha

Children living in care in the district are more likely to experience mental health difficulties than the rest of the UK. - Credit: Archant

The council’s mental health strategy has undergone a ‘rigorous review’ after a report revealed almost half of children in North Somerset suffer from mental health problems.

Data collected by Public Health England found ‘cause for concern’ with 10 per cent more North Somerset children in care suffering mental health issues, compared with the rest of the UK.

The report, based on information collected through a social work questionnaire, showed 48 per cent of children living in care in North Somerset were experiencing some form of mental health difficulty.

The figures outstripped the South West by four per cent – making it one of the highest districts for ‘cause for concern’ in the region.

The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) helps social workers assess the mental health and wellbeing of children aged three to 16 years old living in care or with foster parents.

It tests for symptoms of hyperactivity, depression and inattention.

North Somerset Council has said the findings have prompted a ‘rigorous review’ of its mental health strategy.

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The review has seen the introduction of a number of new theraputic groups offered by the council, as well additional training for staff who work with children in care.

A council spokesman said: “We recognise the number of children in the ‘cause for concern’ group was higher than the national average.

“We have offered specialist training to all staff members who work with children in care to ensure they are equipped to support our children’s emotional wellbeing.

“We continue to actively recruit foster carers who can offer our children looked after warm, loving homes and support them in repairing their trauma through the provision of a therapeutic environment.”

These figures follow the announcement that the area’s independent safeguarding children board had been rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted in 2017.

The council said it is ‘reviewing its policies’ to ensure it will be able to meet Ofsted’s expectations in future.

Early indications show ‘cause for concern’ has improved slightly, with the number dropping to 47 per cent this year.