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Wellbeing and mental health support in schools and colleges for care experienced children and young people: a mixed-methods study of delivering and receiving support

Macdonald, Sarah ORCID:, Hewitt, Gillian ORCID:, Evans, Rhiannon ORCID:, Rees, Alyson ORCID:, Brown, Rachel ORCID:, Anthony, Rebecca ORCID: and Jones, Sion ORCID: 2023. Wellbeing and mental health support in schools and colleges for care experienced children and young people: a mixed-methods study of delivering and receiving support. Presented at: BERA Conference 2023, Aston University, Birmingham, 12-14 September 2023.

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Background: The mental health and wellbeing of care-experienced children and young people is a public health and social care priority, and there is evidence of higher rates of mental health disorders, poor subjective wellbeing, and suicide attempts within this group when compared to the general population (1-3). Schools are a key site for supporting mental health and wellbeing, but whilst governments continue to make significant progress in school-based provision (4-6) there are limited services specifically for care-experienced children and young people (7). This is despite policy directives stating that ‘vulnerable’ populations must have equal access to high quality provision (8, 9). Addressing this is challenging, as there is a paucity of evidence on the effectiveness of interventions for this population (7, 10) and a dearth of understanding as to how the educational system might work with health and social care systems to implement evidence-based approaches, particularly at key educational transition points, such as the transition to post-16 education (11). This presentation will introduce initial findings from an empirical research study which aims to understand experiences of delivering and receiving mental health and wellbeing provision for care-experienced children and young people in secondary schools and Further Education (FE) Colleges in Wales, in order to develop recommendations to enhance service quality and ensure equitable access. Methods: The study draws on mixed research methods across three phases of work. Firstly, a series of consultation events with care-experienced children and young people, foster carers and adoptive parents, and practitioners from social care, education, and health, identify particular difficulties or perceived gaps in support systems and services from the perspectives of different stakeholder groups. Secondly, analysis of data from the School Health Research Network (SHRN) survey provides quantitative insights into mental health and well-being provision for care-experienced children and young people at secondary school. SHRN is a biennial survey of secondary schools in Wales incorporating the Student Health and Wellbeing survey (n=103,971) and the School Environment Questionnaire (completed by senior school staff) from 2017/18 (n=161). Thirdly, qualitative case study research was conducted with schools, FE colleges, social work teams and Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS) teams. These include interviews and focus groups with children and young people, adoptive parents and carers and staff from four localities across Wales. A thematic analytical approach focuses on determinants of mental health and wellbeing provision within educational and social care systems. Method level analysis for each phase of research will be combined with study level analysis across the datasets. Findings: Initial findings will be presented from each phase of work to understand how best to support the mental health and wellbeing of care-experienced children and young people in educational settings. Findings will focus on experiences of delivering and receiving provision, what people think about current provision and what the perceived problems and gaps are, including how education practitioners work with those from social care and mental health. Reflections on research engagement with schools and colleges, and mechanisms for public involvement will also be presented. References 1. Ford, T. et al (2007) Psychiatric disorder among British children looked after by local authorities: Comparison with children living in private households. British Journal of Psychiatry 190(4): 319-325 2. Evans, R. et al (2017) Comparison of suicidal ideation, suicide attempt and suicide in children and young people in care and non-care populations: Systematic review and meta-analysis of prevalence. Children and Youth Services Review 82: 122-129 3. Anthony, R. et al (2022) Measurement invariance of the short Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale and latent mean differences (SWEMWBS) in young people by current care status. Quality of Life Research 31: 205–213 4. Department for Education (2021). Promoting and supporting mental health and wellbeing in schools and colleges. 5. Scottish Government (2021). Whole School Approach Framework for Schools to Support Children and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing. 6. Welsh Government (2021). Framework on embedding a whole-school approach to emotional and mental well-being. 7. Evans R, et al. (2021) Care-experienced cHildren and young people’s Interventions to improve Mental health and wEll-being outcomes: Systematic review (CHIMES) protocol. BMJ Open, 11, e042815. 8. Welsh Government (2020) Together for Mental Health: Delivery Plan 2019-2022 in response to Covid-19. 9. Welsh Government (2021) Review of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) policy: report. 10. NICE (2021) Looked-after Children and Young People. NICE Guidelines. 11. Mannay, D. et al (2017) The consequences of being labelled ‘looked-after’: Exploring the educational experiences of looked-after children and young people in Wales. British Educational Research Journal 43(4): 683-699

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement (DECIPHer)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
L Education > L Education (General)
R Medicine > RJ Pediatrics > RJ101 Child Health. Child health services
Funders: Health and Care Research Wales
Related URLs:
Date of Acceptance: March 2023
Last Modified: 10 Oct 2023 08:45

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