Consulting with Parent/Carers for Children and Young Persons Advisory Group

Consulting with Parent/Carers for Children and Young Persons Advisory Group
Although numbers of children and adolescents affected by mental health legislation in Scotland may be comparatively small in relation to adults, it is still an area that requires review and scrutiny to ensure compliance with UNCRPD and crucially United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child. To assist with this, the Child and Adolescent Advisory Group have begun to consult with children, young people and their parents/carers.

In carrying out this consultation with parents/carers I have been assisted by another member of the Child and Adolescent Advisory Group, Kathleen Taylor. To date we have between us spoken with over 25 parent/carers, with another 8 still to be consulted. It can be hard for anyone to recognise themselves as a carer, but it can be particularly difficult if you are a parent of child or young person with mental health problems. The Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 makes it clear that a person is not a carer “in the case of a cared-for person under 18 years old, to the extent that the care is or would be provided by virtue of the person’s age” This then avoids all parents of dependent children automatically being carers within the Act. But parents of dependant children with additional care and support needs can still be carers to the extent that the care is or would be provided by virtue of something other than the child’s age. For those parents/carers of a child or young person with a diagnosed mental health problem, learning disability or autism they would be carers due to the fact that the person requires additional care and support needs. Helping parents to realise this, and accept it, can be very challenging.

To support us in reaching out to parents and carers of children or young people using child and adolescent mental health services we turned to some of the National Carer Organisations in Scotland, namely Carers Trust Scotland, Coalition of Carers and Carers Scotland and we would like to thank them for their support in this. The challenging part of gathering evidence from parent/carers at a time of restrictions due to COVID 19 was getting the chance to meet with them and to give them time and space to talk. Many parent/carers did not want to come together as a group (as part of a zoom discussion for instance) as they did not want to share their child’s story with others. For some carers, those already in established groups, such as Family Connect, a service run by Enable, the carers were fine with discussing issues as a group as they found the peer support from others in similar situations helpful.

As we are still gathering evidence from parent/carers it would not be the right time to discuss any findings coming forward. However, there is a sense that when services work with families and wrap around the child/young person better outcomes are seen. More of this will be discussed as the review continues and we have an analysis of the consultation responses.

Finally I would like to take this opportunity to thank Kathleen for all her support with this and to thank the generosity of time parents/carers have given us in telling their experiences and of giving us their views of what could be done differently or what could be seen as best practice.

Karen Martin

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