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Online services and interventions: How can they best support the mental health and wellbeing of care-experienced children and young people?

New study, led by Dr Rhiannon Evans, is a partnership between The Fostering Network, Voices from Care Cymru, Cardiff University (CASCADE, DECIPHer and School of Social Sciences), and is funded by the TRIUMPH Network.

The mental health and wellbeing of children and young people is a priority, particularly amongst individuals who have experience of being in care. There has been an increase in reports of mental health problems since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and young people had found it more difficult to access services. As a consequence of the pandemic, and its associated lock-downs, a number of mental health and wellbeing services had to move from face-to-face. Some provision relied on telephone or were delivered online. This had consequences for the type and frequency of services that were available to care-experienced children and young people and their foster and kinship carers.

The aim of the study was to explore the experiences of remote mental health and wellbeing provision by care-experienced children and young people, their carers, and social care professionals. The research questions were:

  • How did the Coronavirus pandemic impact on the provision of mental health
    and wellbeing services and interventions for care-experienced young people?
  • What are the strengths and challenges of online, telephone, face-to-face, and
    blended services and interventions in supporting mental health and wellbeing?
  • What improvements can be made in the format, functioning, delivery,
    acceptability and accessibility of mental health and wellbeing services and

In answering these questions, the study reported key recommendations that might improve future service delivery. These were:

  • Research: Further research is required to understand experiences among a wider range of care-experienced young people.
  • Training: Training is required for carers and professionals on digital literacy and how to meet the mental health and wellbeing needs of children and young people in care.
  • Awareness and access: Children and young people, and their carers, need more information on which services are available, which could be made available through an online repository. 
  • Resources: Children and young people need access to appropriate technology and mental health services more generally. This is a particular issue for young people aged 25 years or younger. 
  • Choice and flexibility: Children and young people should have choice over the services that best meet their needs.
  • Safety, protection and risk: Children and young people, carers, and professionals need information about online safety and safeguarding. 

The study can be read in full here.

Dr Rhiannon Evans says: ‘This study has made an important contribution in understanding the complex experiences of delivering and receiving mental health and wellbeing provision during the pandemic. We hope that the recommendations will be helpful to policy and practice in making sure that the needs of care-experienced children and young people, carers and professionals are met moving forward’.

Read more about TRIUMPH here and this research project here.