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In Mental Health Awareness Week we take a look at some support programmes for young people which have recently received funding from the Children's Social Care Innovation Programme.

Set up by the Department for Education (DfE) in 2013, the Children's Social Care Innovation Programme was created to enable more effective ways of helping vulnerable children and young people. It provides vital funding for all kinds of initiatives, supporting professionals across the mental health and social care spectrum, including social workers, psychiatrists, psychotherapists and mental health nurses. 

To date over £100 million has been given to over 50 different projects. These range from large-scale measures which help transform the social care system to new programmes which bring social workers and community psychiatric nurses together in multi-disciplinary safeguarding teams. 

In February this year, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan announced that three new mental health support schemes for young people would receive a total of £8.4 million. They come under the Fund's 'rethinking support for adolescents' banner, which covers programmes to prevent teenagers coming into care, and to improve fostering services and residential homes.

National Implementation Service

£4.1 million goes to the National Implementation Service to 'hot-house, test and build the sustainability of evidence-based interventions in the UK'. This includes multi-systemic therapy (MST), an intensive family and community based intervention which aims to break the cycle of anti-social behaviour, substance abuse and youth offending. An MST therapist interacts with all aspects of a young person's life and works closely with the family to design a treatment plan, involving mental health professionals such as psychiatrists and psychotherapists as and when necessary.

Action for Children

Leading charity Action for Children is receiving £3.3 million to work with Barnet, Harrow and Hounslow councils, running a suite of evidence-based programmes, including MST, Functional Family Therapy (FFT) and multi-dimensional treatment foster care. An early adopter of these techniques, the charity set up its first FFT programme in Scotland in 2012. In 18 out of 23 cases, the young people stayed at home, saving potential care costs of over £41,000 per week.

Priory Education Services

£1 million has been granted to Priory Education Services, which is working with Suffolk County Council to pilot a new type of residential home, providing mental health treatment in a setting which is smaller and more personal than a hospital. The aim is to better support adolescents and families through a mental health crisis, avoiding family breakdown and reducing pressure on over-stretched professionals such as community mental health nurses.

Three other projects have also recently received funding from the Innovation Fund. £1 million has been given to the NSPCC for a project aimed at keeping troubled families together. Wigan Council has been awarded £920,000 to create a team of social care and mental health professionals to provide crisis support for young people with mental health issues or at risk of entering care. And Cambridgeshire County Council has been granted £589,000 to extend the support it gives to troubled families, particularly those who have been involved in problematic sexual behaviour. 

Nicky Morgan described these projects as getting 'right to the heart of tackling some of the most challenging mental health problems experienced by young people in or on the edge of care." With 72% of children in care having behavioural or emotional problems and 92% of imprisoned young offenders having a mental health disorder, it's vital to find new, proven ways to avoid institutionalising and marginalising this most vulnerable section of society. The Innovation Fund seems to be doing just that.

Are you a psychiatrist, psychologist, psychotherapist or mental health nurse with views on the issues raised in this article? Please leave your comments below.

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