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Improving the mental health of young people in care

Research awardData Science

Funding period2018 - 2019

InstitutionUniversity of Bath

LocationUnited Kingdom

Dr Rachel Hiller is using untapped data to understand the mental health conditions experienced by young people in care, so support services can give them the help they need.   

The project

At least half of young people in care experience mental health difficulties, but many have little or no access to the help they need. Dr Rachel Hiller and her team are using untapped data to give an unprecedented understanding of the psychological profiles of children in care and potential barriers to services, so that vital support can be made available, more quickly.

Children in care have often experienced abuse or neglect, which can lead to emotional and behavioural difficulties with life-long impacts. Many are excluded from schools and can later find themselves unemployed, at risk of homelessness or in contact with the justice system.

Despite recent government initiatives, there has been little improvement in the mental health outcomes of this group. Rachel’s project is taking this on.

The process

Rachel’s team will work with local authorities in the UK to analyse unique social care service data in these areas.

This data will help them see what kind of mental health profiles children have when they come into care, how mental health difficulties develop over time and how services are responding. This will give a much clearer picture of the issues facing young people in care – and how barriers could be overcome.

The potential

This new understanding of the mental health needs of children and teenagers in care - and how services are responding to these needs - will provide social care workers, NHS services and policy-makers with a blueprint to make much-needed changes.

For example, it could help social care workers improve their understanding of the mental health needs of the young people in their care and support better communication between social-care and NHS mental health services, to get young people the right treatment, when it is needed.

Rachel and her team will share their work and findings with other scientists and social care services across the UK, giving them the tools to expand the reach of this important work.

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