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New therapy brings results for troubled young people

  • Published date:
    9 July 2010
Care Services Minister Paul Burstow

Re-offending in troubled and aggressive young people can be significantly cut using a pioneering new mental health approach known as Multisystemic Therapy, a UK conference was told this week.

Reporting on the initial findings of the first UK evaluation pilot, researchers found in families with multiple problems that the use of Multisystemic Therapy reduced the risk of re-offending, particularly among boys. 

The research was led by Dr Geoffrey Baruch, director of the Brandon Centre in Camden, North London and Dr Stephen Butler and his team from UCL (University College London).

They found that lower re-offending behaviour was evident two years down the line compared to existing service approaches, and can be cost effective, because young people are kept out of custody or local authority care, and parents are encouraged to use the voluntary sector and local supports instead.

The approach, approved by NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) has been trialed across 10 sites in England, having been successful in the USA and is supported jointly by the Department for Education, the Youth Justice Board and Department of Health. First results of the evaluation at one UK site as well as the US experience were being presented at the conference on Wednesday 7 July.

Multisystemic Therapy revolves around improving parenting capacity, increasing young people’s engagement with education and training, reducing their offending behaviour, and tackling underlying health or mental health problems, including substance misuse. It is used with children and young people aged 11-17 years and their families, where young people are at risk of out of home placement in either care or custody, due to delinquent and aggressive behaviour, and anti-social attitudes.

Care Services Minister Paul Burstow said:

'We must do all we can to keep young people out of the criminal justice system - these findings show encouraging results about how we might do that.

'The research shows the key role mental health staff and the voluntary sector can play in work with young people and their families.'

Children's Minister Tim Loughton said: 

'We must make sure that young people with complex needs are getting the help they need to get their lives back on track. Today's conference is an excellent opportunity for local authorities to learn from each other and build effective links, so they can develop and sustain programmes such as MST.'

Graham  Robb, Board Member of the Youth Justice Board said:

'The findings of this evaluation are very encouraging. MST can turn around the lives of children and families while also making overall savings to the public purse . The YJB has a strong track record for exploring the potential of pioneering evidence based programmes, and as such we are really keen to support MST.'
 

Notes to Editors

  1. For further information, or if you would like to set up an interview with one of the authors of the study please contact Phil Cohen on 07867 538 486.
  2. Current research on MST internationally was presented by Professor Scott Henggeler, Director of Family Services Research Center in South Carolina and Professor Charles Borduin from Missouri University. 
  3. There was also the chance to hear from commissioners, managers and practitioners from MST sites across the UK and from parents and young people about their experiences.
  4. The conference was aimed at all those who are seeking evidence based, cost effective solutions to working with challenging young people and their families, including: policy makers, commissioners within local authorities and PCTs, senior managers and practitioners within local authority Children’s Services, Youth Offending Services, CAMHS, Adult Mental Health, Substance Misuse Services, third sector organisations, those with responsibility for community safety and researchers in this field.
  5. The event, run in conjunction with the Department for Education and the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales, was held on July 7, 2010 at the Mermaid Conference Centre, London.
  6. One in 10 children aged 5-16 years has a mental health disorder, conduct disorder is the most common disorder in boys (7%)  (ONS 2004).
  7. Rates of disorders increase from childhood to adolescence and 50% of young people with conduct disorder may develop anti-social personality disorder (NICE 2009).
  8. Cost effectiveness research on MST from Washington State Institute for Public Policy suggests that £5 is saved for every £1 invested in the programme. In the UK young people with conduct disorder currently cost public services 28 x the costs of young people without conduct disorder between the ages of 10 and 28 years (Scott and Knapp 2001).

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