England Are Failing The Young and Vulnerable

First off I realize that many of my titles are emotive and arguably overstated but mostly they reflect what is generally felt once people have read my post, or at least how I feel as I write them so apologies.

Going back in my blogs I wrote about attending a round table discussion on inpatient mental health and a few of the reforms we though necessary to improve the current system; in a few weeks time I will be attending another of these discussion groups but this time with the Office of the Childrens’ Commissioner, and hopefully a larger group of individuals. I think we can all agree that at the moment there is a lack of staffing, funding, availability and general service when it comes to mental health facilities with many having to travel to different cities to acquire adequate mental health provision; but this is not the only area in which the government are failing.

A recent freedom of information request by NYAS revealed that the Department of Education and NHS England are failing to record adequate statistical data on the number of children in care and care leavers who are admitted to hospital due to mental health issues. With a response rate from mental health units only reaching 28% from this request NYAS has found that in the past five years at least a thousand children and young people have been admitted to mental health in-patient units whilst in care, the data of which is not shared across central government.

To paraphrase Claire Hyde (NYAS Assistant CEO) there is no meaningful statistical data on children and young people who are looked after or who are care leavers, there is no substantial information of their experiences beyond that of anecdotal evidence, of which NYAS may be more privy due to interpersonal relationships as advocates for those receiving treatment. To follow on from that there is also an alarming rate of children and young people who have to go out of their authorities catchment area in order to receive treatment which has left some social workers with a more blasé attitude towards their work concerning those individuals, and NYAS advocates often having to inform and remind social workers about the rights and entitlements of children and young people.

With children and young people both in, and having left care there are many concerns, especially with the media coverage of scandals in recent months. It is commonly felt that these individuals are the ones who slip through ‘everyone’s safety nets’ leaving them with ‘lifelong problems which cost society more in the long run’. Although the statistical data may be scares the anecdotal evidence from various news sources in long and concerning. It is not only the statistical data which is lacking, the Mental Health Code of  Practice8 highlights the requirement for independent mental health advocates to have experience of working with children and young people who are looked after or care leavers as well as the legislation governing them across both mental health and their legal status as looked after children and young people. Just look at my previous posts and you will see a whole host of issues with regards to advocacy and funding both within England and Wales, local government are still not competent enough to realize the importance of advocacy and the affect it can have on both helping the child or young person and the services they may be involved with.

Advocacy is not just about supporting children and young people with complaints

With those in or leaving care there is also still the issue of who is to fund their costs of living beyond those of the average NHS patient, such as clothing and toiletries just to give you some idea, and where do they turn when there is an issue with their funding especially if their foster carer/social worker/original LA is different to the one they are receiving treatment? From NYAS’s freedom of information request it was revealed that over 15% experienced delays to their hospital discharges due to a lack of foster or residential placement. The duration of stays ranged from one day to 540 days. Two young people were of no fixed abodes on admission. No data is gathered on how far children have to travel to the units from their homes. 50% did not record length of stay. Over 50 % had no advocacy provision in place.

This is just a small selection of the issues on offer, no doubt I will bring more to light in subsequent postings.

*Published in January 2015, the new code will come into force on 1 April 2015, subject to Parliamentary approval.

Thanks to Claire Hyde (NYAS Assistant CEO) and NYAS themselves for their Mental Health Article and prior round table discussion group on which this post is based.

Young and Vulnerable in Wales in Danger

Keith Towler (Childrens Commissioner for Wales) has long been thought of as the childrens’ champion in Wales from his work on the UNCRC (United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child) and introduction of the Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure 2011 to the work he has encouraged with the Flying Start programme; this leaves the question in my mind of why the proposed cuts to funding of services for vulnerable children and young people is even being discussed?

Now the work of the commissioner is not exactly well known, recently I took part in a consultation on what children and young people knew of his work, and although they knew of him, they had no idea what he actually did except going around and meeting young people. It seems at the moment that his position is all about taking the credit where the Welsh Government (WG) are succeeding and to point the finger where they are struggling.

Catriona Williams, chief executive of Children in Wales, has already voiced the urges to keep an eye on the spending on vulnerable children in Wales in order to match supply and demand LAC (looked after children), the disabled and abused are most vulnerable and critically in need of a variety of services. In Wales there are over five thousand looked after children in comparison to just three thousand a few years ago. It begs the question what resources have been allocated to their lives and what quality of life are they actually getting for that.

A few posts ago I voiced a few of the opinions which had come out of a consultation regarding LAC in mental health facilities, i reality this new sway of cuts is going to mean that provisions they need will just fall by the wayside and things will inevitably worsen. If there is no, or reduced support for foster placements, which are already lacking, this means that there will be even less provisions and housing for children and young people who no longer live with family. In articles I have read they have concentrated on the more every day occurrences we may see such as a lack of accessibility whilst barely mentioning the greater impact these cuts will actually have.

Now the BBC have actually mentioned the Commissioners Annual Report (2014) which has suggestions of the greater issues, but it doesn’t actually go into detail for perhaps some ethical reasons. A cut to our already struggling mental health services means that more children and young people will have to move out of area in order to receive some basic care provisions, potentially removing them from their family home. Children living in poverty or with disabilities will further be negated from the opportunities of more able bodied individuals, and with the highest rates of poverty in the United Kingdom is this even acceptable.

Now under Article 12 of the UNCRC children and young people have the right to an opinion and for it to be listened to and taken seriously in matters affecting them, and as the WG has to give due regard to the UNCRC in all aspects of decision making under the aforementioned measure why hasn’t Keith Towler and his team been fighting for more children and young people to be involved in budgetary matters? It may be boring, but the more mature and involved are more than willing to protect the best interests of their peers and understand the need for other services.

If cuts go ahead what is to happen to children and young people who have no choice but to remain in houses with domestic violence, because although skirted around in every article the reality is that if you manage to take them out of that situation you still have nowhere to put them and no support network with a reduction in funding. It has already been statistically proven that those in care, who are moved place to place, from school to school do not have much of a chance. Now that is statistics and I can tell you now you would be shocked if you knew what some of these individuals go on to achieve in their lives, and the change they affect for others in similar situations.

I can not really comment on immigration or asylum as I have not gone through it, and to my knowledge I do not know anyone who has. Unlike a certain news paper I do not feel I should comment on what doesn’t affect me or I have no knowledge of, but I will say that these services too will be affected in a devastating manner. Also what happened to that money from the sale of the Royal Mail, where’s Wales cut gone and where will the sale of Euro Star go? There are pockets of money all about the place which if reallocated properly would stop us having to make these cuts. Whilst we’re making cuts lets make them to MP/AM expenses and pay, although the former are much worse these used to be positions of working men with a good altruistic ethic. Also lets make cuts to the CEO’s/Presidents/VP’s or what ever they want to call themselves (money grabbing idiots) of publicly owned, or part owned organisations.

Should the most vulnerable really pay for those well off and in power to continue their oppression? Maybe we should take up the view of socialists and try to eliminate the gap between the bourgeois and the proletariat in order to exhume some kind of equality. To hell with all the current state of misogyny and misandry, rich and poor. That is what got us in this mess in the first place.