Think child, think parent, think family: a guide to parental mental health and child welfare
Introduction: The organisational context
Research has shown that adult mental health and children's services need to work together to be able to meet the needs of families. However, the current organisational context is very complex. Mental health and children's services each have separate legal frameworks and therefore separate guidance on policy and practice. This has led to specialisation of knowledge and management structures within the different departments. Managers and practitioners have also reported that the lack of a family perspective in central policy directives has made it difficult to make progress in this area, at the same time as delivering other government objectives.
Specialisation in health and social care has had its benefits, for example the opportunity for in-depth training and experience in one area, but has also limited the 'breadth of view' of the same professions.
There have been a number of national and local developments aiming to improve cross-organisational working, in response to research evidence and following consultation with people who use services. For example:
- Crossing Bridges – a 'train the trainers' programme (29)
- inter-agency service protocols and strategies
- recruitment of specialist interface workers
- services commissioned specifically to offer support to families where there is a parent with a mental health problem.
Working in both adult mental health and children's social care services is particularly difficult. Both areas are highly emotive: they attract high levels of media attention and criticism, and staff can be wary of stepping outside professional boundaries. Breaking down these professional barriers is as important as addressing the stigma that exists in accessing services for parents and children.