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Parents with mental health issues

Last year, Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) released a joint report suggesting that children whose parents suffer from mental health issues could be at risk of harm, and receive little or no support for their needs, simply because no data is collected on them.
Around 1 in 6 of the population is thought to be suffering from mental illness at any one time. Currently statistics are not collected about their parental status, but it is thought that 30% of these people have children.
The report, ‘What about the children?’, suggests that they need to be identified, so they can be given help and support as and when they need it.
Investigations into children who died or were seriously harmed between 2007 and 2011 identified three main reasons for these incidences. They were drug and alcohol abuse, domestic abuse and mental illness. Where parents have drug and alcohol abuse problems, there is already a requirement for data to be collected about their children, but the same rules are not in place for children of parents with serious mental illness.
The report does not question the parenting skills of people with mental health issues, instead it recognises the need for awareness of their parental position, so that support can be offered if it is needed by the child or the parent.
Although this report was published more than a year ago, there seems to be no evidence of any action being taken by the government to require the mandatory collection of this sort of data, which means that there are still many children who are vulnerable and need support, but will not receive it.
What is clear is that mental illness is as much a child protection issue as substance abuse. Therefore, it should be reported in the same way in order to ensure children and parents are supported through these times.
If you need help or advice about any aspect of child protection or family law, you can contact our Family Law Team who will be able to offer you guidance – call 01302 320621 or email info@athertongodfrey.co.uk

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