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All schools should offer mental health counselling

LGA calls for all secondary schools to have funding to provide counselling amid concerns for pupils’ wellbeing

Published on 8th February 2018

Funding should be provided to every secondary school in the country to enable them to provide independent mental health counselling to all pupils, the Local Government Association has urged.

The LGA, which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, is making the call amid growing concerns that children and young people are being forced to wait up to 18 months for vital support.

Cllr Richard Watts, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “No child or young adult should have to wait 18 months for vital support and guidance. Many young people might not have needed formal social care support if they had received the early help they needed.

The government has pledged a total of £1.7 billion to promoting, protecting and improving children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing. The LGA is calling for 5 per cent of this funding - £90 million – to be used to make it mandatory for every pupil in secondary and alternative education provision, to have access to on-site school counselling services.

Evidence shows that on-site independent counselling services have seen a reduction in psychological stress in the pupils that have access to it, as well as improvement in behaviour and educational achievements.

The LGA says that government funding of on-site school counselling services in every school would help ensure children can access the support as early as they need without having to go on a waiting list.

The call comes as it has emerged that:

  • At least one in 10 children have a diagnosed mental health condition.
  • Almost 19,000 children were admitted to hospital after harming themselves in 2015 – a 14 per cent increase over three years.
  • Over half of all mental ill health starts before the age of 14.
  • The average waiting time for children and young people to access mental health services range from 14 to 200 days.
  • Between 70-75 per cent of young people experiencing a mental health problem not able to access any treatment, due to reasons such as lack of early intervention services and stigmas around asking for help.

 

Cllr Watts added: “Providing just a small proportion of the funding it is spending on mental health support nationally to ensure every school provides on-site counselling, is one way the Government can ensure every child and young person enjoys the bright future they deserve.

“Mental health problems are very common and not something children should feel ashamed about. Good emotional health and wellbeing is also about learning to be resilient to life’s setbacks and negative emotions.

“They may be facing personal problems outside of school that they feel that they are unable to talk to somebody about or in the current climate, it could be that they are seeking reassurance to cope with modern stresses such as social media pressures, sexual exploitation and negative body image.”

Meanwhile however a new report published by Place2Be in partnership with BACP, NAHT and UKCP found almost half of school leaders have found it difficult to commission mental health support for their pupils.

The research also found that 44% of school leaders said “knowing what type of support is needed” is a barrier to providing mental health support for pupils, and 37% said they don’t feel confident in commissioning a counsellor or therapist.

Over a third of counsellors and psychotherapists who work with children and young people said it was difficult to provide their services to schools. The counsellors and psychotherapists currently working in schools said that common difficulties faced were schools’ understanding of counselling and psychotherapy for children” (57%), followed by “expectations not being clear” (30%). For both schools and therapists, a lack of funding remains the most common barrier to providing support.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union, NAHT, said: “Schools have always been on the front line with children's mental health because school is often where issues first become apparent. This is why a significant number of schools choose to commission counsellors and psychotherapists themselves. However, school leaders are not experts in therapeutic interventions so it can be difficult to know what kind of support is needed. NAHT has continually argued for a more rounded approach, to take some of the emphasis away from schools and re-assert the importance of well-resourced and accessible local support services.”

Catherine Roche, Chief Executive of Place2Be said: “School leaders are already under immense pressure to deliver academic progress – and we shouldn’t expect them to become mental health experts as well. Our evidence and experience shows that embedding skilled mental health professionals in schools, as part of a whole school approach, can have an enormously positive impact for pupils, families and staff. It’s encouraging that the Government’s green paper proposals have recognised this, but to really transform children’s mental health provision, we need all schools to have access to dedicated funding, support and training to be able to source, commission and evaluate services effectively.”

The Department for Education’s Blueprint for Counselling in Schools provides guidance for schools about setting up and improving counselling services for pupils. School leaders can also visit the BACP and UKCP websites to find lists of accredited counsellors and psychotherapists.

Report: Providing mental health support in UK schools

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