Good Mental Health – not a luxury, but a right

Ownership, empowerment and youth-leadership constitute the main pillars of the Drive Forward Care-Experienced Forum’s (CEF) strategic value framework. With this in mind, we hosted a virtual  strategy day in April aimed at identifying the groups’ mission, values and aspirations. 

Based on this collectively identified mission, the group went on to identifying and defining their next flagship campaign. Multiple proposals around housing, mental health, local authority support, and the stigma and discrimination attached to having a background in care were brought forward and the immense professionalism, passion and creativity with which they were developed made it very difficult to come to a decision. But as time and resources are limited, the group had to come together and decide which topic they would like to push forward.

Specialist mental health services for care-experienced young people

“My name is Farhia and I’m very pleased that the majority of CEF members have voted for my proposal on mental health to be the group’s next key campaign. Over the coming months, we will develop a strategy promoting the provision of specialist mental health services within the local authority offer tailored to the specific needs of care-experienced young people. 

This idea came about from my own experiences of accessing mental health services and finding that the adult mental health services are not fit for purpose to meet the specific needs of care leavers. For example, the limited amount of sessions that is usually offered cannot adequately deal with issues such as abandonment, trauma from the care system, transitioning into independence at a premature age, and the manifestations of childhood trauma in adulthood. This was a sentiment that was shared by many of my peers when I joined Drive Forward. 

Unfortunately, poor mental health is very common among the care-experienced population and can make life even more difficult for them. Things such as employment, personal care and wellbeing, or independent living are much harder to maintain when struggling with one’s mental health. There are already specialised services for care leavers such as housing officers and personal advisers, and it’s time we matched this provision with specialised mental health services too. 

Currently, we are focusing on gaining more insight into the different experiences of care leavers and collecting their suggestions, ideas, and innovations to create a more comprehensive picture of what a well-functioning mental health service provision for care-experienced people would look like. 

We then want to closely collaborate with local authorities as well as other expert service providers to develop a pilot project which can then be implemented within a local authority. Close monitoring and careful evaluation will enable us to share our findings within the sector, local authorities as well as government bodies. It is our hope that we will be able to evidence the enormous long-term benefits of specialist mental health services for care-experienced people across all areas of their lives; from increased life-satisfaction and wellbeing, to higher employment rates, to a decrease in negative and self-destructive behavior including crime and substance misuse, to better educational outcomes and much more. We then aim to work with government bodies such as the Department of Health, to ensure the successful roll-out of the service across the UK. 

I am extremely passionate about this topic as it has caused a great deal of hindrance in my own life. My hopes are that we can create a service to help future care leavers so that they do not have to go through the same difficulties as the current generation.”

Farhia is 23 and lives in London.

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