PROJECT DETAILS

Towards early identification of mental health problems in children’s social care

There are high levels of mental health (MH) need in children’s social care settings. However, the data to estimate the actual level of need is very poor and existing figures are likely to be vast underestimates. In particular, poor integration of information held about young people makes it difficult to accurately estimate MH need in this population. 

Project Documents

Final report
(PDF, 327KB)

Status

Data analysis / In progress

Estimated completion

August 2022

Focus areas

Children & families

Delivered by

University of Cambridge

Key Figures

There are high levels of mental health (MH) need in children’s social care settings. However, the data to estimate the actual level of need is very poor and existing figures are likely to be vast underestimates. In particular, poor integration of information held about young people makes it difficult to accurately estimate MH need in this population. 

Without an effective means of early identification, young people and their families can suffer for prolonged periods without suitable MH support. Furthermore, a failure to identify risk factors (RFs) and MH-associated problems early can delay treatment and lead to limited interventions failing to address significant causes of a young person’s difficulties.

In order to solve these problems, we need to: (i) accurately understand the incidence and distribution of MH problems and associated RFs in social care settings across different geographical regions; (ii) understand the specific relationships between RFs and MH outcomes; (iii) provide this information to commissioners so that they can match service funding to the specific needs of the local populations, and make evidence-based and targeted commissioning decisions, which offer a more effective use of the limited funds and resources (including staff) available for service provision; and (iv) develop reliable early identification tools, which do not rely on an already over-stretched CAMHS. 

The aims of this project is to use ADP/SAIL to expedite the building of a linked administrative database in a local setting (CAM-Child) by using the database to refine methods to: 

  1. Operationalise the measurement of MH and RFs within multi-agency data; 
  2. Develop methods to map the prevalence and distribution of MH problems and associated RFs in multi-agency data;
  3. Estimate unidentified MH need within social care.  
  4. Explore relationships between exposure to RFs and MH outcomes. 
  5. Explore the best methods for developing accurate and usable child and adolescent MH risk prediction algorithms. 

The project is set to begin in September 2021 and be completed by August 2022. 

This project was funded as part of our Spark Grant scheme, which sought to fund research projects looking to improve outcomes for children and families and build an evidence base in children’s social care.

The purpose of the Spark Grant Scheme was to fund additional research in children’s social care, conducted by researchers who might otherwise be under-represented in the research community, and/or who might struggle to get funding through other routes, with the aim of providing project leadership opportunities for researchers who may have not had the experience to date.

For further information about the Spark Grant Scheme or its projects, please contact the Programmes team: programmes@whatworks-csc.org.uk