Mental Health
New council report on psychiatric services for children and adolescents with learning disabilities
Sep 30, 2004 - 8:58:38 PM

The Royal College of Psychiatrists has issued a new report, Psychiatric services for children and adolescents with learning disabilities. It is a joint report between the Faculty of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Faculty of the Psychiatry of Learning Disability.

The report is intended to inform the negotiations between service commissioners and the clinicians and general managers of psychiatric services that provide for these young people.

Changing circumstances across the UK, with an emphasis on comprehensive child and adolescent mental health services, have led to this revision of an earlier report. The shift in provision of care from hospital to the community has changed the pattern of service, encouraging young people to remain at home. Hospital places are often restricted to those over the age of eighteen.

As a result, other institutions have developed, particularly childrenÂ’s homes and residential schools. At times, lack of clarity about management responsibilities has led to uncertainty and delay in the provision of mental health services for children in the care of (for example) the home authority and the institution.

Falling between the services provided by learning disability psychiatry and mainstream child and adolescent psychiatry, many children with learning disabilities have been dealt with by the community paediatrician.

The steady progress towards inclusion appears likely to lead to fewer specialised settings, a reduced tolerance for difficult behaviour and an increased demand on treatment services. Community services that have been based on special schools will need to extend and change their style to provide for a more diffusely scattered population.

This report is intended as a draft standard specification to be adapted for local need by those responsible for developing crucial local, specialised psychiatric services for young people with learning disabilities and their families. It complements a variety of recent policy initiatives across the UK and in Ireland.

The report reviews the resources required for a psychiatric service to young people aged under 18 and their families. Starting with an overview of their psychiatric needs, the nature of the disorders and the variety of forms of intervention, it describes the characteristics of a model service.

Whilst the report focuses on the psychiatric aspect of care, it recognises that such a service must be multidisciplinary and multi-agency, and therefore must be seen within the wider range of services supporting mental health. These include education, social services, community child health and other agencies, such as the employment support group Connexions.

The report is written for anyone involved in, or planning to develop, a psychiatric service for young people with learning disabilities.

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