Every secondary school in the country should be given the funding to offer independent mental health counselling to all pupils amid growing concerns that children and young people are being forced to wait up to 18 months for vital support.
The Government has pledged a total of £1.7 billion to promoting, protecting and improving children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing.
The Local Government Association, which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, is calling for 5 per cent of this funding - £90 million – to be used to make it mandatory for every pupil in secondary and alternative education provision, to have access to on-site school counselling services.
The call is part of the LGA’s Bright Futures campaign for children and young people’s mental health. Launched today, it is calling for services that change children’s lives to be properly funded, so that all children and young people can have the bright future they deserve.
It comes as local government leaders warn that:
- At least one in 10 children have a diagnosed mental health condition and almost 19,000 children were admitted to hospital after harming themselves in 2015 – a 14 per cent increase over three years. Over half of all mental ill health starts before the age of 14.
- The average waiting time for children and young people to access mental health services range from 14 to 200 days.
- Between 70-75 per cent of young people experiencing a mental health problem not able to access any treatment, due to reasons such as lack of early intervention services and stigmas around asking for help.
Evidence shows that on-site independent counselling services have seen a reduction in psychological stress in the pupils that have access to it, as well as improvement in behaviour and educational achievements.
The LGA says that government funding of on-site school counselling services in every school would help ensure children can access the support as early as they need without having to go on a waiting list.
Cllr Richard Watts, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said:
“No child or young adult should have to wait 18 months for vital support and guidance. Many young people might not have needed formal social care support if they had received the early help they needed.
“Providing just a small proportion of the funding it is spending on mental health support nationally to ensure every school provides on-site counselling, is one way the Government can ensure every child and young person enjoys the bright future they deserve.
“Mental health problems are very common and not something children should feel ashamed about. Good emotional health and wellbeing is also about learning to be resilient to life’s setbacks and negative emotions.
“They may be facing personal problems outside of school that they feel that they are unable to talk to somebody about or in the current climate, it could be that they are seeking reassurance to cope with modern stresses such as social media pressures, sexual exploitation and negative body image.”
- In 2015 the Government committed £1.4 billion in additional investment for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) over a five year period. In January 2017 the Prime Minister Theresa May announced a comprehensive package of measures to transform mental health support in schools, workplaces and communities. The current Green Paper promises an additional £300 million and focuses on the relationship between schools and NHS.
- Assuming that over a school year 10 per cent of the school population are seen by a counselling service and 50 counselling sessions should be available per 100 pupils, this equates to a total of around 2.25 million counselling sessions in England per school year. The cost to deliver a single session of school counselling is estimated to be between £34 (minimum) and £47 (maximum). Upscaling it to all state funded secondary schools and academies in England would cost between £76.5 and £105.75 million per year.
Helping children and young people to fulfil their potential is a key ambition of all councils, but the local services that can support them to do so are under increasing pressure.
Bright Futures is our call to properly fund the services that change children’s lives.