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Referrals from schools to mental health services rise by one third

The number of referrals being made to mental health services by schools has risen by a third, according to the NSPCC.

A Freedom of Information request by the children’s charity found that 123,713 referrals were made by schools seeking professional mental health support between 2014/15 and 2017/18. It showed that 56% of referrals were made by primary schools and, on average, 183 referrals were made per school day in 2017/18.

However, where information was provided about the outcome of the referral, almost one third were declined specialist Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services treatment.

Peter Wanless, NSPCC Chief Executive, said: “Our research shows schools are increasingly referring children for specialist mental health treatment, often when the child is at crisis point.

“Childline plays a vital role in supporting children with their mental and emotional health, and many turn to us when they are struggling to get access to specialist treatment.”

“We have seen a marked increase in counselling about mental health, and fully expect it to continue. It is vital that government urgently provides more funding to Childline and help children who don’t have access to support elsewhere,” he added.

At the beginning of the year, the NSPCC launched the Are you there? campaign, calling on the government to invest funding into early support services for children. This followed a 26% rise in the number of counselling sessions being carried out by ChildLine to children regarding mental and emotional health issues in the last four years. However Childline counsellors can only respond to 3 out of 4 children who need help.

The move comes after a joint report by the education and health and social care committees was published recently which criticised the government’s proposals to transform children and young people’s mental health services as “unambitious” and failing to help young people who need support.

Cllr Richard Watts, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said: “If we are to tackle the crisis in children’s mental health, we need a root-and-branch overhaul of existing services. We need to develop a system that says yes, rather than no, to children when they ask for help.

“These worrying findings reinforce our call for councils and schools to be given the funding to offer independent mental health counselling so pupils have access to support as and when they need it.

“Providing just a small proportion of the funding the government is spending on mental health support nationally on school counselling is one way the government can ensure every child and young person enjoys the bright future they deserve,” he concluded.

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