Nicola Heady’s research on COVID-19 & looked after children

We asked our students about research relevant to COVID-19. Nicola Heady contacted us about her project:

Heady, Nicola

Nicola Heady

Good mental health and educational attainment are government priorities for all children in the UK. Attainment of these outcomes enable and empower children to bridge social networks and improve social mobility. However, vulnerable looked after children (LAC) are four times more likely to have a mental health disorder and nine times more likely to have a special educational need (SEN); due to emotional, behavioural, developmental and learning difficulties.

Prominent within these mental and learning difficulties are neurodevelopmental disorders such as ADHD, Autism or learning disabilities; lifelong conditions which significantly impact on mental health, behaviour, social communication and the ability to learn. These conditions cannot be supported by generic support services; they require a specialised, multi-disciplinary expertise and approach for effective intervention. Recent research conducted with front line professionals, suggest that mental health services, neurodevelopmental diagnostic and support services and SEN support are still inaccessible for many looked after children. Factors such as high and restrictive thresholds needed to access Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, severely delayed diagnostic assessments, lack of pre and post-diagnostic support, restricted and limited educational resources and lack of specialised knowledge prohibit and impede on meeting the unique needs of these vulnerable children.

The unprecedented coronavirus situation has already raised societal concern on the detrimental impact on mental health and future educational attainment of all children. However, for the LAC who is already at a disadvantage; an immediate proactive shift in mental health services, specialist resources in mental and neurodevelopmental support services and SEN support might lessen the anticipated disastrous effects of the aftermath and help counteract the poor predicted future health and social outcomes of these children.