The Scottish Executive developed and proposed a framework of support systems for the mental health and wellbeing of children, young people and their families (Towards a Healthier Scotland, Scottish Office, 1999) to strengthen individual agency and collective responsibility for identifying and addressing children's needs. These support systems are based on the principle that mainstream services should ensure that children, young people and parents get the learning and support they need to do well. The proposals also suggest that agencies should take responsibility and do all they can, with the help of others, to support the child before referring to another service. This fits with the SNAP report (Scottish Needs Assessment Programme, 2000) recommendation that children's mental health and wellbeing should be "mainstreamed". In order for this strategic aim of mainstreaming mental health services to be met multi-agency dialogue is essential to meet individual needs.
Such mechanisms developed to support inter-agency dialogue included Integrated Assessment, Planning and Recording Framework (IAPRF) (Scottish Executive, 2005a). Some children and young people have particular health, learning, or social needs which require assessment and support from a range of different services and agencies. The system is intended to ensure the consistency and quality of assessments by introducing a common structure for assessing needs, sharing appropriate information, planning and co-ordinating services offered by different professionals and agencies, into a coherent view of a child's strengths and needs. There is an expectation that all professionals will be working to the same frame of reference so that the child's experience is maintained at its centre and that account is taken of strengths, achievements, and the personal resources of the child and family.
A further support system that promotes multi-agency working is the formation of Community Health Partnerships (CHPs). CHPs are intended to provide a focus for service integration and promote:
1 "Horizontal" integration with children's service partners (i.e. education, social services, youth and community, justice and voluntary sector)
2 The "Horizontal" integration with health service partners (i.e. primary care, community health and secondary care)
3 The "Vertical" integration with specialist mental health services (through local, regional and national networks)
The Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 propose 'a range of provisions to secure benefits for, and protect the rights of, people with mental disorder.' "Mental disorder" is defined in the Act as including 'any mental illness, personality disorder or learning disability, however manifested'. This Act then becomes relevant to people with an ASD whether or not they have a co-morbid condition. The Act's primary objective is to ensure that for those people with mental disorder receive effective care and treatment. This relates to all people with mental disorder, including children and young people.
These different support systems are designed to:
- Meet the range of needs required by those with complex needs
- Provide coherent structures to facilitate inter- and intra-agency working
- Recognise the specialist remits that the range of professionals from a variety of services possess
- Provide a seamless coherent pathway of support to the young person and their family across their life span