MH-CAT: A longitudinal survey of the mental health of children in State Care in England through the COVID-19 pandemic

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Sch for Policy Studies


The impact of the current Covid-19 pandemic on the vulnerable group of children growing up in State Care is unknown. This research, which maps on to the UKRI Covid-19 priority of establishing 'social and psychological impact upon vulnerable groups', aims to establish new information on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on mental health of children in State Care through a prospective, longitudinal survey. At any given time in England, there are nearly 80,000 children being looked after by the State. Children in Care constitute a most vulnerable group of children in society, with more than 60% of these children having histories of severe maltreatment such as abuse or neglect. Fifty percent of children in Care have a diagnosable mental health concern, when compared with 12% of children in the general population, with research further indicating poor adult mental health outcomes. Despite this, there is a dearth of knowledge on the longitudinal patterns of mental health and the impact of a pandemic situation on children in Care. This research aims to fill this gap in knowledge with information collected directly from children in Care aged 11-18 years, over an 18-month period, through the Covid-19 pandemic. The results, covering a wide range of practice and policy relevant questions about children's mental health and the influence of their placement, schooling, social work support, strength of support networks and their contact with birth families, will be useful to local-level managers, practitioners and national-level policy makers in making key decisions about children in Care.


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Description The survey of the mental health of children and young people in care, was carried out during 2020 and then repeated in 2021, both during the Covid-19 pandemic. The individualised, local authority-level reports were shared with local authorities that participated (and had enough numbers for analyses) after the wave 1 survey. The Local Authority Corporate Parenting Boards have indicated that they will use the findings to influence decisions linked to mental health of children and young people in care.
First Year Of Impact 2021
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services