The previous Minister for Health and Social Services asked the PPIW to provide advice on the potential to de-escalate interventions in the lives of troubled adolescents. To address this we reviewed research and evidence from youth justice, mental health services and social services, gathered through a workshop and one-to-one discussions with researchers and practitioners with expertise in these areas.
Experts favour de-escalating interventions but acknowledge it will not always be appropriate in the most severe cases, and that approaches may need to vary from one service to another.
De-escalating interventions for some young people can free up specialist resources for those with the greatest needs, but there are practical challenges to doing so. These include:
- increased demand from parents and schools for referrals to mental health services;
- instability caused by short-term care placements; and
- welfare reforms and spending cuts placing increased financial burdens on families with complex needs, and on service providers.
Adolescents with complex needs have contact with a range of professionals (including social workers, schools and youth justice teams) who need to communicate and work together to identify and address issues at an early stage.
Professionals also need to be equipped to manage the risks associated with lower level interventions. Many are understandably risk averse and targets create incentives to escalate interventions. Combined risk assessments can provide a way of reaching joint decisions on appropriate levels of intervention.
The report concludes that de-escalating interventions is not always about doing less. It can mean doing things differently in order to use existing resources in a more timely and effective manner. This may include refocusing interventions so that they are tailored to the circumstances of individuals.
To view the report, click here.