The government’s response to the Looked after children’s health report. Underwhelming at best

You may not have read the government’s response to the House of Commons’ Education committee, which undertook an extensive enquiry into the health and well-being of looked-after children. I don’t blame you, so let me save you the bother.

Education committee says:

LAC children have terrible mental health outcomes (interestingly almost the whole report is about mental, not physical health)

They often have poor access to CAMHS and other mental health support services, especially if their placement is not stable.

They are often hard to reach, and their difficulties do not fit into neat categories, so need a flexible approach to referral and therapy.

I would add: The current system of medical monitoring is excessively focused on exhaustive information gathering, and fastidious paperwork, over mental health and focusing on the child’s current needs.

In summary, the government’s response is “no, everything is just fine, and anything that isn’t fine is the local authorities fault”. Again and again they reject the recommendations, some kicked to the long grass while their expert reference group spends 18 months coming to the same conclusions as the committee, some dismissed because Future in Mind solved mental health.

Deeply disappointing but sadly, not a surprise.

What does it mean that parents are more concerned about results than child’s happiness?

It’s always dangerous to hang anything on a survey, but let’s accept for a moment the plausible idea that parents, when asked about their worries for children entering school, place academic progress above their happiness. Is this even a bad thing? If the current cohort were content by historical standards, maybe it wouldn’t be a mistake, but well being indicators are worsening, especially among girls at secondary school age, while, conversely, academic results improve. So are parents wrong to worry more about performance than happiness? On average, yes, although clearly it’s hard to generalise. 

It’s not just that happiness is a problem right now. Recent work from LSE shows that, as a predictor of life satisfaction in adulthood, emotional well-being is far more important than academic success. So being concerned with children’s mental health isn’t cuddly, fluffy thinking, it’s hard nosed, evidence based policy. The current mania for performance and discipline in schools has obscured their role in producing functional, well adjusted citizens, and we all have a duty to resist it in our own way. 

do we need specific inteventions for attachment problems? We still don’t know

Parenting interventions for children with severe attachment problems

This is a good, thoughtful blog about attachment problems, but it’s unclear what work the category of ‘attachment problems’ is doing here, as parenting seems to have the same impact on this group as on other children.

As the review asks: do we need to develop interventions that specifically address attachment problems, or are the established interventions enough?