Is enough being done to help children with mental health problems in Milton Keynes?
Mental health services for children in MK are wide-ranging but could be improved, say Ofsted inspectors.
MK Council put out a self-congratulatory press release yesterday (Wednesday) about the newly-published report .
The headline was 'National inspection finds child mental health provision is strong in MK'. It listed the services provided by the council and quoted Labour's “proud” Cabinet member for children and families, Councillor Zoe Nolan.
But what the press release failed to point out was a five and a half page list of improvements ordered by the Ofsted inspectors.
In fact, they have ordered the director of children's services to prepare a written statement for them outlining a multi-agency plan of action involving the council, police, the CCG and health providers and local youth and community services.
Ofsted focused their inspection on how the city responded to children living with mental ill health as well as the help available for youngster who are the subjects child in need or child protection plans.
Inspectors said: “Children can access a wide range of services to help them with their emotional well-being and mental health needs. A variety of partners, including schools, provide services, and different approaches are being developed to ensure better access to support.”
They praised the recent “redesign and improvement” of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) that means more children can receive support and waiting times have been reduced.
However, the report highlighted tha some children are still having to wait up to 40 weeks to be seen by CAMHS. This applies particularly to those needing treatment for ADHD, learning disabilities, tics and Tourette's syndrome.
The multi-agency system for children's mental health was praised for what it offered, but criticised because information is not always shared sufficiently between the different agencies.
The inspectors cited one case where a”very vulnerable” boy was detained for 18 hours in police custody without any contact with an appropriate adult,
“He was a very vulnerable child and was kept in a highly stressful situation without the support he needed,” said the report.
It praised the council's Youth Offending Team (YOT) for the “highly effective” way it help youngsters avoid further crimes by focusing on underlying factors such as mental health and speech and communication problem.
“Thoughtful and creative responses from staff within the YOT mean that children who are reluctant to engage, because of a history of trauma or because of their complex needs, are able to build sound and trusting relationships with staff,” said the report.
The inspectors concluded: “While there have been some noteworthy improvements in accessibility to mental health services, and plans for the future of young people's mental health in Milton Keynes are in place, there are still some areas that require further work.”
MK Council says 98 per cent of schools in the borough have a mental health lead, and nine in ten governing bodies have a mental health champion.
Earlier this year, a new anonymous and free service launched for young people aged 10-20 in MK. Kooth.com provides advice and access to professional counsellors as well as peer-to-peer support, with topics from exam stress and anxiety to eating disorders and grief.
Cllr Zoe Nolan said: “I’m really proud of the strong partnerships across Milton Keynes and how we work together to support our most vulnerable young people. Mental health is an area that touches every family and something that should always remain a priority.
“We are not complacent and will continue to work closely with schools, health professionals and the police to ensure that we offer the right support at the earliest opportunities.”