Children in mental health inpatient care

Article 39 is working on a three-year project, funded by BBC Children in Need, which aims to engage with children and young people in England to highlight their experiences of mental health hospitals; ensure that their voices are heard and help influence the development of law, policy and practice.

A safe space? The rights of children in mental health inpatient care

Our new report ‘A safe space? The rights of children in mental health inpatient care’ shares the views and experiences of children, as told to their advocates. Among the report’s findings are that children are being kept in hospital for too long, often many miles from home, and in environments not conducive to their needs and rights as children. Staggering numbers are still being placed on adult wards and are subject to harmful restraint, seclusion and segregation. Where a child has the right to help from an advocate when they make a complaint about their care or treatment this appears to be frequently ignored.

Many children are in hospital as ‘informal patients’ and there by ‘consent’. But many are kept locked up, or do not understand their rights and fear being ‘sectioned’ if they try to leave. These children are denied the legal safeguards provided to children who are formally detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 – such as the right to an independent mental health advocate and to be given information about their rights. The report calls for urgent action from healthcare providers and government.

Key statistics

For the detail behind these figures, read our Children in hospital (Mental health) statistics briefing which brings together available data on children in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services Tier 4 units (also referred to as inpatient care or psychiatric care).