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New plan to tackle children and young people’s mental health

The Government has unveiled plans for ways schools and colleges can better support pupils’ mental health.

It has published a Green Paper with £300m of funding available for measures which include encouraging every school and college to have a designated senior mental health lead; setting up mental health support teams to work with schools to give children and young people earlier access to services; and piloting a four-week waiting time for NHS children and young people’s mental health services.

Consultation process

A consultation process on the proposals will until March 2, with the Government also seeking views on how children and young people should learn about mental health in school.

The Green Paper also recommends that a new working group is established to look at mental health support for 16 to 25-year-olds. In addition, a report by the Chief Medical Officer on the impact that technology has on children and young people’s mental health will be produced in 2018 and work to explore how social media affects the health of children and young people will be conducted.

The document also outlines how the proposals will affect pupils, students and staff at schools and colleges, specialist mental health services, and families and communities.

Mental health lead

By 2020, each school and college should have a designated mental health lead, who is a trained member of staff responsible for the school’s approach to mental health. They will also oversee the help the school gives to pupils with mental health problems, help staff spot pupils who show signs of mental health problems, offer advice, and refer children to specialist services if required.

Mental health support teams

Mental health support teams will work with schools and colleges – particularly with mental health leads - to offer individual and group help to young people with mild to moderate mental health issues including anxiety, low mood and behavioural difficulties.
They will be the link between the NHS and schools, and more specialist mental health services, and will work alongside others who provide mental health support including school nurses, AMHPs, social workers, support workers, voluntary and community organisations and social workers. A key goal is to reduce the time it takes to get treatment from children and young people’s mental health services.

Research projects

Research will be conducted on how to support families where parents or children have a higher risk of developing a mental health problem with the results will be used to create guidance for best parenting programmes. Additionally, experts will be consulted to look at ways to help prevent mental health problems.

The Association of Directors of Children’s Services welcomed the Green Paper and its emphasis on early help, prevention and the “vital role of schools” in the early identification and support of pupils with mental health problems.

The Mental Health Network and the NHS Confederation similarly welcomed the move but said “more needs to be done more quickly as these plans will only reach a minority of schools by 2022.”

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