What was the project about?
Why was the project needed?
Experience within the Mind in Croydon team suggested that parents with mental health problems were reluctant to access mental health services. They were concerned that their mental health needs may lead to their children being placed on the Child Protection Register, or removed from their care.
Mind in Croydon staff also considered that parents with mental health needs required different kinds of support, not just in terms of accessing mental health services, but also support to improve parenting skills and family life. They decided that a dedicated advocate could address these needs.
What does the advocate do?
The advocate works on a one-to-one basis with parents with mental health needs. Each parent's needs are assessed individually with the advocate looking at a range of issues across the parent's life that could impact their mental health and ability to parent. The advocate's remit could include housing, financial issues, social engagement, physical health and parenting skills as well as mental health.
The advocate is led by the parents' wishes. For example, the advocate may be involved by:
- identifying services that can help address the parents' needs
- providing support around accessing services
- liaising with health and social care professionals who can help the parent
- providing support with child protection proceedings.
How is 'mental health' defined?
A practical approach is taken when defining mental health. Parents are offered advocacy support if:
- they are accessing statutory mental health services
- they have been referred to statutory mental health services but were not offered support
- they have not been offered services but feel they need psychiatric help.
Which organisations does the advocate work with?
The advocate takes a holistic approach to supporting parents, building and maintaining relationships with organisations including:
- social services
- community mental health teams
- children and family services
- local authority housing and benefits teams
- housing associations
- Sure Start.
Where do referrals come from?
Parents can self-refer or be referred from a range of sources including mental health teams, social services, and services within Mind in Croydon.
An evaluation of the service is currently underway, so more about what the organisation has learned will be available in the coming months.
What does the evaluation focus on?
The team want to understand more about:
- how the advocacy intervention addressed the needs of parents
- the strategies and attitudes the advocate needs to adopt
- what value the advocacy service provides given the context of parents with multiple needs and the involvement of several service providers.
How is the service being evaluated?
Interviews with the advocate have explored:
- the needs of the parents
- the context of the work
and in response to these circumstances:
- the strategies she employs and
- the attitudes she adopts.
The interviews were recorded and transcribed and the template analysis method has been used to analyse the data.
Currently statement questionnaires are being used with health and social care professionals and parents to understand to what extent these two groups share the advocate's perceptions of the needs of the parents and the value of the service.
Demographic data for the project clients and detailed case notes kept by the advocate will also be used to inform the evaluation.