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Children’s mental health green paper will focus on prevention

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The children’s mental health green paper will include a focus on how to go further in improving prevention and access to specialist support, the government has said.

In response to a report by the health and education select committees on the role of education in children and young people’s mental health, the government said children and young people’s mental health remains a key priority for the government.

“We want to transform the way we deal with mental health problems right across society, and at every stage of life-making mental health an everyday issue to be addressed in every one of our institutions,” said the government response.

The government response said that as the committees acknowledged, teachers are not mental health professionals and need support from specialist services. That is why the government has been trialling approaches to help schools and colleges work closer together with local NHS services to provide dedicated children and young people’s mental health services.

“We agree that it is important for teachers to understand mental health issues in young people and to be able to identify where pupils might have an underlying mental health problem. A new initial teacher training framework was published in July 2016 and includes specific detail on mental health relating to standard 5 of the Teachers’ Standards,” said the government’s response.

Courses are still being redesigned to reflect the new framework, but there are examples of specific mental health training being offered to trainees such as the Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools, established by Leeds Beckett University. The government pledged to “look at what might be done to build on those changes and the commitment in that every secondary school in the country will be offered mental health first aid training” in the green paper.

The government has also commissioned the Care Quality Commission to carry out a major thematic review of children and adolescent mental health services across the country, with input from Ofsted, which is underway.

There is a significant work programme underway to support improved access and support which aims to address variation in timely assessment and evidence based interventions for mental health problems. By 2020 at least 70,000 more children and young people per annum will be able to access effective care, the response added.

The work programme includes:

  1. Introduction of the first ever access and waiting standards for mental health services – bringing them in line with other services.
  2. NHS England commissioning NICE and the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health to develop a joint agency evidence based pathway for children and young people from signposting to inpatient care.
  3. NHS England making a further £25m available on top of the £149m issued in 2016/17 to Clinical Commissioning Groups to support children and young people’s service transformation and delivery, with a focus on reducing current waiting times for mental health services.
  4. The 67 new or extended local Community Eating Disorder Services are working with schools to ensure that teachers are fully briefed on how eating disorders may present early and how to refer for quick access to advice and support.
  5. Public Health England has produced a Mental and Wellbeing Joint Strategic Needs Assessment toolkit (a data profile and a knowledge guide) that includes meeting the needs of children and young people taking into account local assets, risks and protective factors.
  6. The children and young people’s mental health green paper will include further steps to improve access to appropriate services.

“We agree that partnership between schools and children and young people’s mental health services is vital to provide the best possible prevention and support. As announced by the Prime Minister in January, the Government plans to extend our joint training pilot to improve collaborative working across schools and mental health services to test the sustainability of models of joint working across a larger number of schools,” said the government response.

The government concluded that it recognises that this support and activity has been delivered at a time of increasing cost pressures in schools, which is why it has recently announced an additional £1.3 billion for schools and high needs across 2018–19 and 2019–20, in addition to the schools budget set at Spending Review 2015 which protected the schools budget in real terms.

“As a result, core funding for schools and high needs will rise from almost £41 billion in 2017–18 to £42.4 billion in 2018–19 and £43.5 billion in 2019–20,” the response concluded.

Children and young people’s mental health—the role of education: Government Response to the First Joint Report of the Education and Health Committees of Session 2016 –17

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