The mental health of young people in Scotland, particularly those in care and leaving care, has been the focus of a number of reports and announcements in the past month.

To keep you up-to-date we’ve brought together the latest news, reports and research relating to mental health and care-experienced young people from the past month. Here’s what you need to know.

Barnardo’s Scotland publish paper on access to CAMHS services

Barnardo’s Scotland has published the first in a new series of papers, ‘Care in Mind’, looking at issues relating to mental health. This paper looks at rejected referrals for CAMHS services and young people in and leaving care.

The report looks at five areas that have previously been identified as reasons for CAMHS referrals being rejected: lack of stability, lack of engagement, symptoms not severe enough, lack of clarity around referral criteria, and service being provided by another organisation.

Given the instability that is often inherent in a young person’s experience of the care system, lack of stability is a reason for rejection that will disproportionately affect care-experienced young people. As such, the report calls for a “child-centred, trauma-informed” approach to referrals that looks at stability as just one factor impacting suitability for CAMHS support.

Where lack of engagement is an issue, the paper calls for services to be redesigned to remove barriers to engaging with them or for support around the young person to be increased to allow them to access the service.

The paper also recommends that consideration should be given to ensuring “thresholds are necessary and appropriate to operate a service which recognises and responds to trauma”. Furthermore, the thresholds should be clear to those supporting young people and alternative models of support should be available where referrals are rejected due to symptoms not being severe enough.

Finally, as care-experienced young people are already likely to be accessing support, there is a particular issue around referrals being rejected because services are already being provided by another organisation. The report calls for assumptions not to be made about the level of support being provided by other services and for standard thresholds to apply to all.

You can read the report in full here.

Scottish Parliament report on secure care and prison places for children and young people in Scotland

The Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee has been undertaking an inquiry into the provision of secure care services in Scotland, with a particular focus on the provision of mental health services. It has now published its final report and recommendations.

The inquiry followed the deaths of two young people at HMP YOI Polmont in 2018 but did not look into the particular circumstances surrounding them. The Committee endorsed the recommendations of the Expert Review into mental health services at HMP YOI Polmont published in May 2019, which you can find here.

The Committee recommended that young people entering secure care should have an assessment of need on their mental health and wellbeing within the first days of their entry into the system, with guaranteed access to mental health services and trauma counselling as required. The Committee was also concerned about potential social isolation in secure care and called for this to be addressed.

The Committee believed that “unless there is strong evidence to the contrary, no young person under the age of 18 should be placed in HMP YOI Polmont when a place in a secure care unit would be more suitable”. They also called for transition from secure care to HMP YOI Polmont to be based on “vulnerability assessments” and not just age, calling for the Scottish Government to review the law in this area. 

The Committee also recommended that all young people entering HMP YOI Polmont should “arrive with a detailed dossier of information on their circumstances, care needs etc.” and should have “rapid access to a comprehensive assessment of their needs”.

You can read the report in full here.

New investment in counsellors in education settings

The Scottish Government has made two separate announcements in the past month on the provision of counsellors for young people in education.

An investment of £20 million will be made over four years to provide more than 80 additional counsellors in further and higher education. This will begin with an allocation of £3.6 million this academic year to colleges and universities. Read more here.

The Scottish Government has also reached an agreement with COSLA on the allocation of £60 million over four years to local authorities to ensure every secondary school has access to at least one counsellor. Read more about this announcement here.