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Data collection on parents with mental health issues should be mandatory

Children whose parents or carers have serious mental health problems can sometimes be poorly provided for and left at risk, a new report suggests.

‘What about the children?’ a joint report by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) calls for mandatory data collection on these families.

Data collection is currently required of parents with alcohol or substance abuse problems.

It is estimated that 30% of nine million adults who experience mental health issues have children, but there is no national obligation to notify relevant authorities or provide information on how they are coping.

Ofsted and the CQC state that a lack of identification has led to some children not receiving help and support that they need.

Mental health was amongst the most common factors in cases whether children either died or were seriously harmed. Other factors were alcohol and drug abuse.

Deputy social care director for Ofsted, Sally Rowe said: “This report raises some significant concerns for children who are living in very difficult and vulnerable situations. If children living with parents with mental health problems are to receive the right support and protection then the same level of scrutiny should be applied as those whose parents have issues with substance abuse.

“That is why we believe it should be a mandatory requirement for this data to be collected to ensure local agencies are focused on the needs of these children.”

CQC director for regulatory development, Philip King said: “Adult mental health services and drug and substance misuse services play an important role in child protection. The point of our joint work is not to question the parenting ability of people with mental health problems, many lead perfectly ordinary family lives.

“However, information from some notable serious case reviews highlight the fact that some parents and their children need additional support due to the effects that mental illness can have on families. In these circumstances identification and early help is key, and this is what we have identified as the issue.”

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