Mental health and well-being of looked-after children Contents

4Workforce development

Foster and residential carers

47.We met foster and residential carers as part of our visit to Trafford Metropolitan Borough Council in January 2016. Trafford runs two training programmes on mental health and well-being awareness as a recognition that investment in carers can help ensure placement stability for children and young people.

48.Carers in Trafford are given free training in KEEP, an evidence-based programme designed to support foster carers to manage the behaviour of looked-after children with complex and challenging behaviours. Trafford also offer training on the Nurturing Attachment Programme which is based on attachment theory and an understanding of the impact of trauma on children’s development and security.66 In Trafford approximately 75% of foster carers have taken part in the KEEP programme and roughly half have attended the Nurturing Attachment training.

49.In response to a written question on the training available on mental health awareness for foster carers Mr Timpson stated:

The statutory framework is clear that fostering services must provide carers with the training, information and support necessary in the interests of children placed with them.

The Training, Support and Development (TSD) Standards provide a national post-approval training framework for what foster carers should know and understand. This includes knowing what ‘healthy care’ means for the mental health of young people, and how children develop relationships. My Department’s expectation is that fostering services should ensure that foster carers complete the training within 12-18 months of approval. The TSD Standards form part of the National Minimum Standards for foster care.67

50.Despite these standards, evidence to this inquiry has described training for foster and residential carers in mental health and well-being as patchy.  Alistair Burt responded to criticism of current training for foster carers by saying that “of course we want to continue to see what more we can do so that the often greater level of specialism that is now needed in foster care is being addressed”.68

51.Wendy Lobatto, from ‘First Step’ in Haringey, told us that different areas have varying approaches to training and development and that it would be “good to build on the best of those approaches”.69 She added that it would be helpful if there was “vigilant oversight” from the Government to ensure that all areas “are putting sufficient resource and attention into the needs of looked-after children and the needs of the workforce that support them”.70 Dr Antonina Ingrassia, a Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist and Director of Medical Education at Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust, added that “the Department of Education should commission a scoping exercise to develop a curriculum for a core national training module for professionals working with looked-after children”.71

52.Training and support for foster and residential carers is highly variable and in many local authorities fails to equip carers with the knowledge and skills needed to support looked-after children with mental health difficulties. Foster and residential carers are professionals who need comprehensive and regular training in how to properly support children and young people in their care.

53.The current Training, Support and Development standards should be supplemented with specific modules which focus on mental health and emotional well-being. The Department for Education and the Department of Health should fund and develop these learning modules, building on best practice and those existing programmes with clear evidence of success. We recommend that the Government creates a curriculum development committee to oversee the formation of these modules.

Teacher training

54.Training for teachers on mental health and well-being was highlighted in the January 2015 Carter review of initial teacher training (ITT):

ITT should provide new teachers with a grounding in child and adolescent development, including emotional and social development, which will underpin their understanding of other issues such as pedagogy, assessment, behaviour, mental health and special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). ITT should also introduce new teachers to strategies for character education and supporting pupil well-being.72

55.The report claims that although teachers “believe they have a duty to help identify and support pupils with mental health problems, they feel inadequately prepared to do so”.73 This echoed the evidence we received from the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) which argued that instead of supporting and promoting good mental health and well-being, schools are delivering “emotional first aid”.74 ASCL wrote that long waiting lists for CAMHS means that schools are forced to call emergency services in severe cases. 

56.The Youth Select Committee recently recommended that “there should be a mandatory minimum training for teachers on young people’s mental health” which includes training on “how to spot problems and where to refer”.75

57.We support the recent recommendation made by the Youth Select Committee on the inclusion of mental health training in the core content of initial teacher training. We see this as a minimum requirement. Training on emotional well-being and mental health should also be included in continuous professional development for current teachers.

66 The term ‘attachment’ refers to the physical and emotional support which children depend on from the key adults who take care of them. Attachment theory says that children who are securely attached have higher self-esteem and empathy, and can deal with stress more effectively. Looked-after children are more likely to be affected by attachment difficulties which can have a negative impact on their mental health and subsequent behaviour.

67 PQ 26853 [on Foster Care: Mental Health], 23 February 2016

68 Q202

69 Q116

70 Q116

71 Dr Antonina Ingrassia (MHW 70) para 23

72 Andrew Carter, Carter review of initial teacher training (ITT) (January 2015)

73 Andrew Carter, Carter review of initial teacher training (ITT) (January 2015), p 56

74 Association of School and College Leaders (MHW 34) para 7

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Prepared 27 April 2016