You can download this Impact Report as a PDF here.

What is the staff competency framework for inpatient mental health care for children and young people? 

The Children and Young People (CYP) Mental Health Inpatient Competence Framework outlines the core competencies required for all staff working Children and Young People’s mental health inpatient services. It provides a standardised, evidence-based, and compassionate approach to support the workforce to provide high-quality care for children, young people, and their families.  

The project has been developed based upon extensive involvement and consultation with experts by experience, parents, carers, and families. Although this framework is for staff, it will also be useful for children, young people and their families/ loved ones as it will tell them what they should be able to expect from their care and treatment. 

The NHSE/I Quality Taskforce worked with Health Education England (HEE) to commission the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health working in partnership with UCL to deliver this project.   

The NHSE/I Quality Taskforce and Health Education England (HEE) asked us at the British Institute of Human Rights (BIHR) to provide an expert review of the competences relating to human rights. 

  • You can find a PDF of the full framework here. 
  • You can find the section on human rights here (p.14-15):  

 

 

What did we do? 

BIHR was asked by NHSE/I Quality Taskforce and Health Education England (HEE) to provide an expert review the competences relating to human rights within the new framework. This is part of the “knowledge” section of the framework which you can find in full here: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/pals/sites/pals/files/cyp_ip_domain_2_knowledge.pdf The Human Rights section starts at p.14.  

After reading the first draft of the framework, we offered recommendations on the legal accuracy and further embedding the practicalities of human rights law into the framework. 

 

Supporting the inclusion of human rights in staff competency framework for inpatient mental health care for children and young people 

Human Rights as central to children and young people’s mental health services 

It is crucial that human rights are part of staff competency frameworks such as these. Human rights must not be an add on, as they are the very foundation of the work that staff do working in children and young people’s mental health services. Indeed, the Human Rights Act 1998 puts a legal duty on all public authorities, and the staff that work in them must act compatibility with human rights, in all of their work every day and says that all staff working in public authorities must apply all laws, policy and guidance, in a way that respects human rights (as far as possible). 

At BIHR, we have seen success stories from when this happens and know from our practice based work that services that have human rights at the core work better for children and young people, their family members/ loved ones and staff. 

We were pleased to offer an expert review of the human rights section of the framework. In our review, we highlighted the importance of the centring human rights throughout all aspects of mental health care for children and young people and focused on the UK domestic human rights law- the Human Rights Act 1998. 

 

The outcome of BIHR’s involvement 

Outcome 1- Centring a Human Rights based approach 

Following our review and recommendations, human rights are now referred to in the first section of the competency framework, as central to the attitude, values and style of interaction that staff should take when working with children and young people.  

 

 

The inclusion is essential as services that centre a human rights-based approach are not only are abiding by UK law (see below) but work better for both the young people who are accessing (or trying to access) services and the staff delivering services. 

 

Outcome 2- Focusing on the Human Rights Act legal duty 

Section 6 of the Human Rights Act puts a legal duty on all public authorities, and the staff that work in them must act compatibility with human rights, in all of their work every day. 

Section 3 of the Human Rights says that all staff working in public authorities must apply all laws, policy and guidance, in a way that respects human rights (as far as possible). In a children and young person mental health setting, this means when any staff member is applying a law such as the Mental Health Act, the Mental Capacity, Act, the Children’s Act or any other law, guidance or policy they must do so in a way that respects human rights. 

We are pleased that the human rights legal duties are now explicitly referred to in the knowledge section of the new competency framework at 2.8 “Knowledge of human rights law and principles in an inpatient context”: 

Often in our work with staff across public bodies, including staff working in children and young people’s mental health services, the first time they hear about these legal duties is when they attend our human rights training session. It is vital that it is clear to all staff that they have a legal duty to act compatibility with human rights, and apply all other laws, policy and guidance, in a way that respects human rights (as far as possible). 

 

Outcome 3 – The HRA Legal Framework Supporting Everyday Practice  

We are pleased that the Human Rights Act legal framework of absolute and non-absolute human rights is now also directly referred to in the knowledge section of the new competency framework at 2.8 “Knowledge of human rights law and principles in an inpatient context”: 

  

It is important that human rights are not just part of abstract policy. Staff must know how they apply to their roles every day. At BIHR, we see through our everyday direct work with staff, how the legal framework of absolute and non-absolute rights can aid better decision making and increase confidence in using a human rights-based approach. In order for staff to be able to make human rights based decions, they must understand the difference between absolute and non-absolute rights, and the 3-stage test that must be used when restricting non-absolute rights. 

 

Summary and Next Steps 

Creating a culture of respect for human rights in children and young people’s mental health services. 

We were really pleased to be asked to provide and expert review of the human rights section of this framework, as human rights should be the foundation of all the work that mental health services, and all public services, do every day.  

Human rights in now referred to as a central competence for all staff working in children and young people’s mental health inpatient services. This competency framework is also useful for children and young people (and their loved ones) at it sets out (the pre-existing legal framework) that they can expect their human rights to be respected and protected when they are accessing mental health services. 

Although the inclusion of human rights as a key competence is a welcome and important step forward towards creating a culture of respect for human rights. However, this is only one part of the picture, there must be, in a public services, a continued focus on the implementation of the pre-existing human right law, in all frameworks, polices and everyday practice.