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4.16 Parents with Mental Ill Health


Please note: in December 2012 a change has been made to terminology regarding self-harm to “Persistent serious self-harming behaviour”.

1.1 The majority of parents who experience significant mental ill-health are able to care for and safeguard their children and/or unborn child.
1.2 However, in some cases, enduring and/or severe parental mental ill health will seriously affect the safety, health and development of children. Where professionals believe that this may be the case a referral must be made to Social Services – see Referral to Social Services Procedure.

Where any of the following are present in an adult carer a referral should be made for an assessment to be carried out in order to determine how the child’s needs can be met and the likelihood of Significant Harm:

  • History of severe mental illness;
  • Delusional thinking involving the child;
  • Threats to harm a child;
  • Suicide attempts;
  • Persistent serious self-harming behaviour;
  • Altered states of consciousness e.g. splitting/dissociation, misuse of drugs, alcohol, medication;
  • Obsessive-compulsive behaviours involving the child;
  • Non-compliance with treatment, reluctance or difficulty in engaging with necessary services, lack of insight into illness or impact on the child;
  • Disorder designated ‘untreatable’, either totally or within timescales compatible with the child’s best interests;
  • Domestic Abuse;
  • A child is acting as a young carer for a parent or sibling.

The Significant Harm threshold is likely to have been reached when:

  • There is an impact on the child’s growth, development, behaviour and/or mental/physical health;
  • The parent/carer’s needs or illnesses are taking precedence over the child’s needs;
  • There is insufficient alternative care for the child within the extended family.