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New drive to improve mental health in schools

Mental health workforce for schools/colleges

Adrian O'Dowd

Thursday, 26 July 2018

The government has announced that there will be hundreds of new mental health workers based in and near schools and colleges in England from next year, as part of ambitions to transform children and young people’s mental health.

This workforce will be the first of what could be as many as 8,000 additional staff supporting schools and colleges across the country in the long-term, said ministers, and in addition, mental health support teams will be on hand to ensure young people get help.

In its official response*published yesterday to a consultation** run jointly by the Department of Health and the Department for Education last winter, the government said it planned to create a new NHS mental health workforce dedicated to supporting children in schools and colleges.

Seven higher education institutions in England would be offering Education Mental Health Practitioner courses from January of next year, with the first teams to begin working in schools and colleges in “trailblazer” locations by the end of 2019.

These “trailblazers” would be made up of NHS and key local stakeholders, such as schools, local authorities and third sector organisations, to pilot and roll-out mental health support teams.

These teams will treat those with mild to moderate mental health issues in school, and will help children and young people with more severe needs to access the right support and provide a link to specialist NHS services.

The “trailblazers” will be rolled-out to at least 20-25% of the population by the end of 2022-23.

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said: “By creating a dedicated new workforce in schools, which when in post could equate to more than the entire total current child and young person’s mental health NHS workforce, we will support each and every child in fulfilling their potential as we transform mental health services in this country.”

The news received a mixed response.

Sean Duggan, chief executive of the Mental Health Network – part of the NHS Confederation – said: “The mental health of our children and young people is of paramount importance and, despite some excellent and innovative schemes from our members, we know there is much more that can be done.

“What has been confirmed today could be a shot in the arm the system so desperately needs – there are welcome commitments on workforce, waiting times and an all-important strengthening of links between education and health care providers.

“New faces will be welcome and we look forward to more information on these new roles and their recruitment and training.”

Dr Max Davie, officer for health promotion for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: “We know there is high demand for mental health support in educational settings therefore additional investment in support staff in this sector is a move that’s welcome.

“However, children and young people’s mental health cannot be supported by one service alone. It takes a number of teams working collaboratively and inclusively to provide patients with the best possible outcomes.

“What’s needed is more resource to support the integration of child health, primary care and other agencies within a local child and adolescent mental health system.”

Javed Khan, chief executive of children’s charity Barnardo’s, said: “The government’s response to the Green Paper consultation does not show enough action on how as a society we are going to stop sleepwalking into a children’s mental health crisis.”

*Department of Health and Social Care & Department for Education. Government Response to the Consultation on Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision: a Green Paper and Next Steps (July 2018)
**Department of Health & Department for Education. Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision: a Green Paper (December 2017).

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