Improving mental health assessments for children entering care

24 September 2018

Consortium partners Local areas are invited to take part in a pilot programme that tests improved approaches to the mental health and wellbeing assessments that looked after children receive when they enter care.

Funded by the Department for Education (DfE), the main aim of the pilots is to give children entering care better mental health assessments, helping to ensure the approach used is more suitable for looked after children’s needs, to increase the likelihood of accessing the right support at the right time, and responding to each child’s individual needs. 

The project is led by the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, together with a consortium of partners including Research in Practice, Action for Children and Child Outcomes Research Consortium.

Up to ten pilots across the country will work with the consortium over a period of two years to trial a new approach to mental health assessments, benefiting from additional funding and a bespoke package of support, including training and dedicated implementation consultants.

The project follows the publication of the Improving mental health support for our children and young people expert group recommendations and the Transforming Children and Young People's Mental Health Provision: a Green Paper and Next Steps.

The DfE has also commissioned SQW Ltd to undertake an evaluation of the pilots to understand what works, or does not, and what other factors are at work that affect outputs and outcomes to improve health assessments.

Further information about the programme.

How to take part

If your organisation would like to be considered as a pilot area, there is a short submission form that should be returned to: The deadline for applications is 12 noon on the 19 October.

Applications are being sought from local authorities, Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) or NHS trust areas. Where possible joint local authority and CCG/NHS trust pilots with either the local authority or CCG/trust acting as lead are encouraged.

The consortium’s aim is to pilot the approach in a range of contexts and settings and this will be a consideration in the selection of sites, alongside readiness and capability to participate. The pre-information form is required from applicants to ensure that the areas selected for the project cover a range of socio-economic characteristics and different commissioning and delivery models.

There will be an opportunity to discuss this information in more detail at the next stage of the application process. Once the forms are reviewed, short-listed areas will be invited to a telephone interview to discuss the application. This will give applicants the opportunity to describe vision and ambitions for the pilot within your wider local strategy for improving children and young people’s emotional health and wellbeing and the capacity needs to deliver the project.

If you are submitting an application please ensure you have:

  • submitted the information requested;
  • identified at least two people who will act as project leads within your organisation;
  • ensured appropriate contacts are available for interview between the 29 October and 14 November. 

Download the submission form

What happens next?

Selection decisions will be based on a number of criteria chosen in consultation with sector experts. Each application received will be considered in the context of:

Benchmarking and demographic data for the last two years including*:

  • Geographical location and socio-economic characteristics of the population.
  • The number of children looked after by the authority.
  • The number of children subject to Child Protection Plan within the authority.
  • Case load per family social worker.
  • The quantitative analysis of current mental health assessments for looked after children.
  • The number of referrals to local mental health services for children, including the number of repeat referrals.
  • Access rates to mental health services.

Information provided by applicants on:

  • Evidence of local capacity and capability for service improvement and transformation and the expected impact on outcomes for children that the local system would like to achieve.
  • The maturity of the local system to work together to pilot this systems change.
  • Capacity of local services to respond to identified needs resulting from looked after children’s mental health assessment.
  • Alignment with local strategic priorities and links with other Government initiatives (such as opportunity areas and the looked after children personal mental health budgets pilots).

Applications will be reviewed and an agreed shortlist will be based on the above criteria to ensure pilots cover a series of socio-economic, demographic characteristics and delivery models and capacity to pilot systems change. 

The final selection of up to ten pilot sites will be agreed following the phone interview and successful applicants will be notified by the 19 November.

*From publicly available sources including the Children’s Services statistical neighbour benchmarking tool and the local authority interactive tool.

Find out more

If you have any queries about the pilots or the application, please contact Rosie Ellis, Project Manager at the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families -

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