Evaluation of the Mental Health Assessment Pilots for looked after children

In 2019 the Department for Education launched a programme to pilot a new approach to mental health assessments for looked after children in nine local authority areas over two years. The key elements of the pilot included:

  • the application of mentalisation to the assessment process (being empathetic and validating, attentive and curious, and taking a wider perspective)
  • inclusion of the child’s network in the assessment process
  • introduction of a virtual mental health lead to support frontline assessors
  • a package of different tools to supplement the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire
  • the addition of a child-centred, written output that reflected the perspective of the child on their mental health and wellbeing and incorporated views from their network.

The evaluation involved consultations with site stakeholders, interviews with carers and children and young people, expert review of interview transcripts with children and parent/carers and written outputs from the assessments, and review of monitoring and cost data.

The programme generated considerable learning, particularly on perceptions of how the various elements of the approach had operated. Overall, the evidence suggested that some good practice existed in terms of the new assessment process meeting the desired criteria of thoroughness, quality, accuracy, timeliness and extent to which they were person centred. However, the evaluation also found that elements of the approach required further refinement and that further evidence was needed, at scale, to demonstrate effectiveness.

The evaluation report is available here.