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Heads welcome mental health green paper

Schools leaders’ welcome government’s proposals to transform children and young people’s mental health

Published on 6th December 2017

School leaders have welcomed the government’s green paper on transforming mental health provision for children and young people.

The National Association of Head-Teachers said they hoped the green paper firmly establishes the role that schools can play in supporting rather than replacing specialist mental health services.

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said it was “an important step forward in tackling an issue which is of great concern to school and college leaders”.

The green paper outlines that half of all mental health problems start before the age of 14 and early intervention can prevent problems from escalating. As a result it says that the government wants to put “schools and colleges at the heart of our efforts to intervene early and prevent problems escalating”.

Under the proposals outlined in the green paper, each school will have a designated lead on mental health. Currently around half of schools have a mental health lead but the government wants this extended to all schools by 2025 in order for all young people to be able to access support.

The trained professional will lead the school’s work on mental health, identify pupils with mental health problems and refer them to specialist services when necessary. The lead will also provide support and advice to school staff on mental health.

The professional will be supported by mental health support teams who will provide support to pupils with mild to moderate anxiety and depression. These teams will be funded by government and will trial new ways of working to reduce waiting times for children accessing specialist treatment to four weeks.

A group of experts will look into how mental health problems can be prevented. Work will also be carried out with Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner for England, on social media and how it impacts on mental health.

Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary, said: “NAHT has been pressing the government for some time to take a more rounded approach to mental health provision, particularly to take some of the emphasis away from schools and re-assert the importance of well-resourced and accessible local support services. These proposals could be a significant step towards that goal. 

“There is recognition that more training and funding is essential. There is recognition that the role schools can play is in promoting good mental health rather than diagnosis or treatment. And crucially, there is recognition that schools never act in isolation when seeking to do the best for pupils and require access to other services.

“NAHT hopes that this green paper firmly establishes the role that schools can play in supporting rather than replacing specialist mental health services.

“All too often we hear that young people are already in crisis by the time help arrives. That cannot be right, so the new four week waiting time for NHS children and young people’s mental health services is extremely important step forward.

“The government is investing a significant sum in this project, for training, development and delivery, and that is to be welcomed. As the Secretary of State has said, every young person should be able to grow up feeling confident about themselves and their future. We now need the government to deliver on this ambition.

“NAHT will continue to work closely with the government to make sure that schools are able to deliver their part of the mental-health jigsaw, so that parents and families have a clear picture of how they can get help rather than facing the complex and often tragic puzzle of recent years.”

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We are pleased to see the recognition by the Health Secretary that schools and colleges are already doing a great deal to support the mental health and wellbeing of young people. This is despite severe funding pressures on their own resources, and difficulties in accessing underfunded NHS services for young people in need of specialist help.

“It is clear that additional support is required at a time when the incidence of mental health problems is rising and school and college budgets are continuing to shrink. We therefore welcome the creation of mental health support teams to help young people with emerging and more moderate needs.

“However, we remain extremely concerned about the difficulties which exist in accessing local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services for young people who require specialist care. We note the intention to pilot a four-week waiting time, but question whether this is achievable within the allocation of £215m over the next three years alongside other measures in the green paper. We will be discussing this with the government, but we suspect that significantly more funding will be required to ensure that specialist services are resourced to match need,” he added.

Transforming children and young people’s mental health provision

 

 

 

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