Higher rates of mental health difficulty and trauma for girls in the secure estate

A review by Centre for Mental Health finds that girls in the children and young people’s secure estate in England have high rates of mental health difficulty and trauma.

11/10/21

Higher rates of mental health difficulty and trauma for girls in the secure estate

Girls entering the children and young people’s secure estate (CYPSE) have multiple and complex difficulties including high levels of mental health difficulty resulting from prolonged and pervasive experiences of abuse and adversity, says a new report published by Centre for Mental Health.

Girls can enter the CYPSE both through ‘welfare’ placements or through the justice system. There are fewer girls than boys in the CYPSE, with very small numbers in justice placements. The majority are placed in secure children’s homes. At the time of the review, small numbers of girls on justice placements were also placed at Rainsbrook secure training centre – which recently received an ‘Inadequate’ rating from Ofsted after two Urgent Notifications were triggered at the facility within a year.

The report finds that girls entering the CYPSE arrive with histories of sexual exploitation, high levels of, trauma, poor mental health and much higher than average neurodiverse conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Coming into the CYPSE can exacerbate feelings of trauma and mental health difficulties, leaving many feeling frightened, lost and overwhelmed. Girls from racialised communities are also over-represented in the CYPSE and there is some evidence that they may be less likely to have their vulnerabilities and needs recognised.

Girls in justice placements were also more likely than boys to be far from their homes. In 2019, eight out of ten girls in justice placements were more than 50 miles from home compared with just under four out of ten of boys. The Centre for Mental Health says this can make it much harder for them to maintain important family relationships and it undermines their connections with support services that might assist transition back into the community. Many girls in welfare placements said they felt ‘abandoned’ and ‘forgotten’ by their community and by social workers.

For girls in welfare placements, there was a lack of safe and stable step-down housing and advance planning for their return to local areas. This often hindered their transition back to their home areas. Girls found this uncertainty highly stressful – often resulting in an unravelling of the progress they had made during their time in the home and increasing their chances of self-harm.

Almost all girls entering welfare placements are considered to have significant self-harm risks. And girls in justice placements had high reported levels of self-harm compared with boys. This is a major worry for both girls and staff working in the CYPSE. Use of force or restraint was commonly used to prevent self-harming with girls in the CYPSE, which itself can be traumatic, especially for those with histories of physical and sexual abuse.

Staff felt that trauma-informed approaches, currently being extended across the CYPSE, were helpful in supporting girls’ wellbeing and progress. Staff in the CYPSE sought to make girls feel safer and to build strong and authentic relationships with them.

Some girls said they felt much safer in CYPSE settings and appreciated the mental health support they received and the positive relationships they had with staff. But many also felt anxious and unsafe in what they often described as an unpredictable environment. A number of girls said they wanted more time with staff and more emotional support. Access to education was also important for girls. Some had made real progress during their time in these settings, while others felt that provision wasn’t adequately tailored to their abilities, ambitions and needs.

Lorraine Khan said there was evidence that girls are better at hiding and masking childhood trauma, distress, and neurodiverse needs.

“This results in girls going under the radar – missing out on critical opportunities for early intervention or for additional support during childhood. As a result, some girls’ difficulties multiply and become entrenched over time – particularly when they then face further abuse and sexual exploitation during adolescence. During this review we heard about important gaps in early effective community support for vulnerable girls making them more at risk of ending up in the CYPSE.”

The Centre for Mental Health is now calling for earlier intervention to support girls who have faced trauma and adversity, and for more strength-based, wraparound and gender responsive community-based alternatives to the CYPSE.

The report also makes recommendations for changes in the CYPSE to support girls’ mental health. They include bolstering support and induction for girls from the moment they enter the CYPSE until after they have transitioned out; strengthening staff training (particularly in relation to gender, trauma and strength-based approaches and in the management of complex and repetitive self-harm); and improving the early identification of girls with trauma, neurodiverse difficulties and other needs, especially for girls from racialised communities.

Paint on Face

Surrey County Council

Social Workers & Senior Social Workers

Job of the week

Sign up for an informal interview for this role today

Competitive

Featured event

COMPASS

Conference

22 Nov 2021

Instant access 

Featured jobs

Torbay Council

Experienced Social Worker

Luton Council

Social Workers needed (Family Safeguarding and Children Looked After Teams)

SWT_SideAd1.png

Most popular articles today

Care regulator warns of “tsunami of unmet need” as providers hand back registrations

Care regulator warns of “tsunami of unmet need” as providers hand back registrations

Adoption matching events could help harder-to-place children find homes, report says

Adoption matching events could help harder-to-place children find homes, report says

Embracing technology and the future of social care in a post-COVID world

Embracing technology and the future of social care in a post-COVID world

‘Arcane’ tax rules silence vulnerable groups, says new research

‘Arcane’ tax rules silence vulnerable groups, says new research

Sponsored Content

What's new today:

Supporting social work students with additional needs during their placement