Synthesising research on mental health services for young people who have been in care for What Works for Children's Social Care

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What Works for Children’s Social Care in the UK has commissioned CEI to conduct a rapid review on mental health services for young people who have been in care, in partnership with the UK’s leading fostering charity, The Fostering Network.

This review is important because these young people are disproportionately affected by mental health difficulties versus their peers. Data available for children currently in care suggests an eight-fold increase in diagnosable mental health problems as compared to the general population (Department for Education, 2020). The recent Independent review of children’s social care includes a mission to increase the life expectancy of people who have experienced care, by narrowing health inequalities, including mental health inequalities (MacAlister, 2022).

Moreover, research by NSPCC has found that support for the emotional wellbeing of young people who have been in care is inconsistent and insufficient (Bazalgette, Rahilly, & Trevelyan, 2015). With a transition out of care, young people have found that they are no longer eligible for support from mental health services, despite research showing a clear deterioration in mental health in their first year of leaving care. Over the last decade, there has been an emergence of co-designed innovations in youth mental health care, including services which span a transitional age range (McGorry et al., 2022).

The review focuses on two questions:

  • One will identify the impact of programs and interventions that seek to improve mental health outcomes amongst this population. It will do so by building on a prior CEI systematic review on the impact of policies, programmes, and interventions for care leavers (Taylor et al., 2021).
  • The second question will look at CEYP's experiences with the implementation of mental health services in the UK, including barriers to access and engagement with services. In doing so, it will synthesise a variety of evidence on experiences, including qualitative literature.

Both reviews will be informed by a lived experience advisory group and a policy and practice advisory group. This review will be completed by October 2022.



Bazalgette, L., Rahilly, T., & Trevelyan, G. (2015). Achieving emotional wellbeing for looked after children: a whole system approach. Impact and Evidence Series, (June), 106. Retrieved from… 

Department for Education. (2020). Children looked after in England including adoptions, Reporting Year 2020. Retrieved February 3, 2022, from

MacAlister, J. (2022). The Independent Review of Children’s Social Care: Final Report. London. Retrieved from

McGorry, P. D., Mei, C., Chanen, A., Hodges, C., Alvarez-Jimenez, M., & Killackey, E. (2022). Designing and scaling up integrated youth mental health care. World Psychiatry, 21(1), 61–76.

Taylor, D., Albers, B., Mann, G., Chakraborty, S., Lewis, J., Mendes, P., … Shlonsky, A. (2021). Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Policies, Programmes and Interventions that improve outcomes for young people leaving the out-of-home care system. London. Retrieved from