Health needs to take greater child role

17th March 2000 at 00:00
BRITAIN'S most damaged children are being condemned to isolation because no one knows how to deal with them, teachers, social workers, and health professionals have been told, writes Julie Henry.

Innovative ideas about how to help children whose early childhood has been abusive have been overrided by the consideration of how to protect the rest of society.

Millions of pounds are being spent containing violent children in "safe" houses with paltry education provision and little or no contact with their peers. In Surrey, where there are 10 young people in such accommodation, the authority is spending pound;185,000 on each of them annually.

Michael Maher, residential services manager with Surrey, told a conference in Leeds organised by Young Minds and the National Children's Bureau: "Childrn are being controlled through isolation. There is a fear of placing them together. People are not prepared to do that now because of the child protection aspect.

"But placements for children on their own are sterile, despairing and will not address the child's most fundamental needs."

He said social services, education and particularly health needed to take joint responsibility.

"The confidence and proper authority necessary for non-medical residential treatment of such children has been lost through shifts in social attitudes in the past 10 to 15 years.

"Health services cannot be allowed to continue to abdicate responsibility for them, and need to see them as their problem too.

"Psychiatry, psychotherapy and psychology should not mean occasional consultancy."

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