19 December 2019
“Young people have it tough – but young people who have experienced being in care have it worse. Can you stop and imagine what it might be like to not have your family around to look after you. That is the reality for looked-after children in Gloucestershire.
“How does a child end up in care? The reasons are multiple and complex but they will all have been at risk of serious harm. That could be from neglect, poor parental health or unstable living conditions. Even kids that have been in care for a short period are likely to have experienced trauma or mistreatment. And with that trauma and mistreatment comes increased anxiety, mistrust and a whole host of feelings and emotions.
“It is no wonder therefore that children in care are more likely to experience mental health issues as they try to deal with situations that most of us will never truly comprehend. In 2015 it was estimated that nearly half of children in care had a diagnosable mental health issue….nearly half! And that doesn’t even count all those suffering will low level anxiety, lack of self-esteem and low confidence.
“Although many young people have a positive experience in care, their experiences before can affect them long after they become looked after. There is a lot of research about how children in care are also more likely to go on to live a poorer, less fulfilled or dangerous life. The Department for Education reports
- 25% of adults in prison have previously been in care.
- Up to half of women involved in sex work have spent time in the care.
- 25% of the homeless population experienced care at some point.
- 49% of care leavers aged 19 to 21 in Gloucestershire are not in education employment or training as of September 2019
“Many young people don’t feel positive about their future and may not feel prepared to transition from care when the Government’s support is gradually withdrawn, leaving young people with a sense of abandonment during a highly stressful time.
“On top of all these challenges, Gloucestershire Children’s Services are being monitored by Ofsted and the Department for Education after they were judged inadequate in March 2017. The latest report in September 2019 showed lots of improvement but still highlighted a lack of access to mental health services when young people really need it.
“Not all care leavers have access to timely mental health provision…. there are often delays in young people receiving appropriate interventions, leading to a deterioration in their circumstances, such as hospitalisation or custody.” (Ofsted)
“But help is here.
“Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning have invested in a joint project with Young Gloucestershire and Infobuzz, Linked Up+. We are able to offer 18-25 year olds who are in, or leaving care, direct and speedy access to a new mental health service. The project brings together both practical and emotional support to tackle the complex web of challenges young people leaving care face.
“Mental Health Youth Workers are able to look at, lifestyle, relationships, finances, housing and support young people to set goals, make plans and take steps to achieve.
“Alongside this we offer a professional counselling service that provides six months of one to one support for young people. Together they unpick their thoughts and feelings and gain a better understanding of mental health, learn ways to cope and improvement their wellbeing.
“Young people who have experienced counselling with us describe it like bringing together the missing pieces of a puzzle. Finally addressing deep-seated issues that they often didn’t realise were the driving force behind some of their behaviours and choices.
“We believe that all young people deserve the best in life. Unfortunately many young people are born into situations that make that harder…we count ourselves lucky as a charity to be able to offer extra support to young people who really need it. Helping them take one more step along that journey to a happy, safe and fulfilled life.”
If you know anyone in or leaving care who could benefit from a bit of extra support please visit our webpage for more information and download a referral form for the Linked Up+ project.
Pictured: Kat, Megan and Trina, Counsellors and Mental Health Youth Worker on the Linked Up+ Project.