The government has published a green paper on transforming children and young people’s mental health provision.
Under the government proposals, there will be a designated mental health lead in each school and college who will be responsible for the establishment’s approach to supporting pupils with mental health problems.
“We want to ensure that all children and young people, no matter where they live, have access to high quality mental health and wellbeing support linked to their school or college,” said the green paper.
Around half of schools currently have a mental health lead but the government wants each school to have a lead in place by 2025. The designated member will be a trained professional who will also be offered training to develop their skills in leading mental health work.
They will be responsible for overseeing how the school supports pupils with mental health problems, helps staff to identify pupils who may be experiencing mental ill health and refer children to specialist services if necessary. In addition, they will be on hand to support staff and provide advice about mental health.
The designated leads will be supported by mental health support teams – which the government will fund - who will provide support to pupils with mild to moderate mental health problems including anxiety and low mood. Thee support teams will link the schools to the NHS.
Some of the areas with mental health support teams will try out new ways of working to reduce the time it takes for children and young people with mental health problems to access treatment. The aim is to reduce waiting times to four weeks, sooner for children with severe problems.
The green paper also asks for views on how children and young people should be taught about mental health and emotional wellbeing in schools.
The government also plans a drive to improve understanding of mental health and will work with the Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, to explore how social media affects the health of children and young people.
Different mental health experts will also be brought together to look at how mental health problems can be prevented. The group of experts will consider the best evidence and look at where more research needs to be carried out to prevent mental health problems.
The National Association of Head-Teachers welcomed the report. “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.”
This consultation closes at midday on 2 March 2018