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Organisations across Portsmouth have been praised in a report for their services for children who need mental health support as well as for those suffering from abuse, neglect and exploitation. 

In December 2020, Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), HMI Constabulary, Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) and HMI Probation published a report on the findings of a Joint Targeted Area Inspection (JTAI) which looked at how partners in 6 local authority areas, including Portsmouth City Council, are working together to support children with mental ill health. The report was based on inspections carried out between September 2019 and February 2020 – before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Services such as schools, the police, the NHS, the council, and voluntary organisations are praised for working together well to ensure children throughout Portsmouth are supported. Schools were recognised as playing a key role in quickly identifying children’s mental health and wellbeing needs, and a partnership approach to building awareness, understanding and skills among professionals who work with children was also highlighted. This includes specialist services such as educational psychologists, Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS), outreach services and safeguarding professionals. There is a strong focus on supporting children’s emotional health and wellbeing, as well as quickly identifying mental health issues. Professionals in Portsmouth were also praised for their flexible and adaptable arrangements in response to children’s mental health needs, as well as for aiming to get a baseline of training on mental health for all staff who may come into contact with children.

Councillor Suzy Horton, Cabinet Member for Education at Portsmouth City Council, said: “Portsmouth has a great reputation for the collaborative way in which we support children’s mental health, and we are so pleased to see this confirmed in the report. The report praises the fact that children in Portsmouth are supported by a wide range of services to help them with their emotional and mental health, including a strong partnership across schools, the NHS, the police, the council and the voluntary sector. We will continue to work closely with children and their families to improve services further to ensure they get the support they need.”

More children with mental health needs are getting the right support at the right time. Given the impact of COVID-19 on children’s mental health, and increased pressure on services, building on this success is vital.

Since the report was published, services in the city for young people with mental health concerns have been boosted further with the launch of Kooth, which provides young people with a free, safe and anonymous way to access support from qualified counsellors as well as a range of self-help resources for mild to moderate mental health issues, such as anxiety, loneliness, stress and body image. Kooth is available to young people aged 11-18 years old in Portsmouth, or up to the age of 25 for care leavers and those with an Education Health and Care Plan. Young people don’t need a referral to access Kooth and can simply register at Kooth.com. There are no thresholds or waiting lists. Kooth complements the Mental Health Support Teams, which are currently available in 32 Portsmouth primary and secondary schools.

This comes as the council launches its annual survey for parents and carers, about the local services and support on offer for children and young people aged 0 – 25 with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND). The survey is open until midnight on 19 March and can be found on the Portsmouth SEND Local Offer website at https://portsmouthlocaloffer.org/now-live-2021-send-survey/