By Helen Clark: Director, Child Mental Health Charter Campaign
In Mental Health Awareness Week, the Government has boosted spending on mental health services for chidlren and young people in schools and colleges.
Today, Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson has announced a further £17 million in funding for pupils and students to help them recover from the devastating and ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The package has been publicised as part of the Government’s strategy to ‘build back better’ and includes:
• £9.5 million to train a ‘senior Mental Health Lead’ from existing staff in up to 7,800 schools and colleges. It is envisaged to offer this training to all schools and colleges by 2025
• A £7 million ‘Wellbeing for Education Recovery’ programme providing free, expert training, support and resources for staff dealing with children and young people experiencing additional problems arising from the pandemic including trauma, anxiety or grief. The money is issued as part of the DfE’s ‘Wellbeing for Education Return’ implemented by 90% of councils since summer 2020
• The Department of Education will also fund a ‘Link’ programme; designed to improve partnerships between health and education leaders in local areas, raise awareness of mental health concerns and improve referrals to specialist help when needed.
• An Education Staff Wellbeing Charter will be launched this week with a cross-sector commitment to protect and promote the wellbeing of all staff working in schools and colleges. The Department has appointed ‘Timewise’ – the national flexible work training provider to train staff to implement flexible working where possible. Eight flexible working ambassador schools have been appointed to champion best practice and work with other schools locally
• A Suicide Safer Universities framework will be established to ‘promote good practice in the sector, ensuring that university students are supported during their time at university
Helen Clark, Director of the Child Mental Health Charter Campaign said:
‘Of course this is all very welcome news and I would like to thank everyone who joined the Child Mental Health Charter Campaign in calling with us for a National Covid Recovery Strategy for children and young people to be implemented as of urgency. I would in particular like to thank Dr Lisa Cameron MP who sponsored EDM 923 calling for such a strategy and the 46
MPs on a cross-party basis who signed it during the course of the last parliament. This has shown that campaigning pressure has worked and that the Government has listened.
To some extent!
There is still so much more to do.
Firstly we remain disappointed that a Child Mental Health Covid Recovery Strategy was not announced in the House of Commons via a Statement from the Prime Minister or a Secretary of State and that it has never been the focus of a National Press Conference, involving the Children’s Commissioner.
Secondly, there is no sense that the post of Mental Health Lead can be subject to open and external application from a wide number of well-qualified candidates. In-house training is good, but this is a specialist role in its own right and must be advertised and remunerated as such.
Also, England, unlike the other devolved Home Nations still does not have either a properly trained and accredited counsellor or play therapist in every school and no plans have been announced to reverse that situation.
Finally, above all, none of the new measures are statutory. We have a forthcoming reform of the Mental Health Act as promised by Boris Johnson in his 2019 Queen’s Speech – but all the new measures as they stand are not protected by legislation and are subject to change or removal at any time.
I am glad that the Government has moved, but there is still so much more to do.
Please now engage the support of your MP for the Six Principles in our Child Mental Health Charter (link) and ask them to tell the Government that they are essential to protect and safeguard the mental health of all children and young people in law.’