Children's mental health crisis - is it new?

Childrens mental health crisis - is it new?

It is impossible to ignore the growing mental health crisis which has been exacerbated since school lockdown due to Covid-19. However, for many families with children with special educational needs and/or disabilities, this is nothing new. The lack of opportunities, inaccessibility, lack of understanding and empathy and isolation is something that they have to contend with every day.

Children and young adults can experience a wide range of social and emotional difficulties leading to challenging behaviours, withdrawal and/or school refusal. These behaviours may be symptomatic of underlying mental health issues such as depression, eating disorders and self-harming. Others may have disorders such as ADD, ADHD or attachment disorder.

Over the years we have seen increasing numbers of children unable to attend school or engage in learning due to high anxiety. The challenge is then to find an educational placement or flexible home package that can support mental health needs as well as the therapeutic support needed. Often the situation has deteriorated to such an extent that input from CAMHS is required and/or the whole family, including siblings, requires help. If not dealt with quickly and in the right way, it can lead to family breakdown and the need for input from social services in the way of additional support in the home, respite and short breaks.

The Mental Health of Children and Young People survey conducted by NHS Digital and published in January 2021 reports that more than a quarter of children and young adults aged 5 – 22 years reported disrupted sleep and 10% often or always felt lonely. The problem has been exacerbated because parents have experienced more mental distress during the pandemic compared to non-parents, suggesting that support for parents at this time matters for children’s mental health. This ties in with the need for support for the whole family.

My child has an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) and the school is now refusing it. What can we do?

Your child’s health is most important. If you notice deterioration, then you should seek help; see your GP and ask for a referral to CAMHS. Unfortunately, there are long waiting times. In the meantime, if your child has an EHCP, ask for an interim review of the Plan and discuss what the school and local authority can do to help the situation. There could be an agreed gradual return to school or remote learning, a mentor and/or input or advice from an Educational or Clinical Psychologist. What is important is that the family and the child/young person must be fully involved in discussions.

Remember that ‘social, emotional and mental health’ is one of the four key recognised areas of a child/young person’s special educational needs. Any issues with mental health should, therefore, be addressed in the EHCP. Assessments can be requested as part of the EHC needs assessment and is something that may be ordered by the SEND Tribunal if medical advice on mental health is required as part of an appeal to the SEND Tribunal.

Schools and colleges should have clear processes to support children and young adults. The Department of Education’s guidance on managing mental health in schools can be found here.

The Boyes Turner Education Team can help with any stage of the EHCP process and can be contacted on 0118 952 7219 or via senexpertsolicitors@boyesturner.com

I am so happy at the outcome, I don't think we would have had such a comprehensive service from any other law firm, and you took the worry away...I do not regret a single second of the whole process, apart from the bit before you got involved. 

James' mother, Boyes Turner client

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