In my view - Children in care need more help

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SAPHNA, the School and Public Health Nurses Association, welcomes the Government's White Paper Care Matters, and recognises it as a valuable vehicle for improving the poor outcomes, particularly in relation to health, of looked-after children and young people.

We applaud the emphasis placed on 'holistic' health and the promotion and inspection of co-operation, joint strategic planning and commissioning and shared responsibility in responding to health needs. The provision of extra resources, increased powers and the recognition of the contribution of designated health nurses and doctors will go some way to further develop successful work with vulnerable children.

However, we are disappointed that these roles were not further strengthened. It is also essential that primary care services such as health visiting, community paediatrics and school nursing are given sufficient resources to conduct thorough health needs assessments and respond to identified health needs.

We are concerned over the number of suggested strategies that rely on looked-after children and young people being school attenders. Many are not, and we feel the paper falls short in recognising this and putting appropriate systems in place.

While admiring the White Paper's recognition of the extent of mental health problems in looked-after children and young people, we feel that the ongoing challenges of child and adolescent health services will remain largely unresolved. There are good evaluated examples of screening and diagnostic tools that can be used as part of an holistic health needs assessments, which should be exploited to develop more responsive services.

The White Paper extends further support to looked after children, young people and those who care for them. We need to embrace the opportunities it presents and continuously work together to strive for better.

- Sharon White, professional officer and designated nurse for looked-after children and young people at SAPHNA.

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