Our View On The Government's New Proposals
The Government have published a Green Paper laying out their plans for children and young people’s mental health services. Here's our view on the proposals.
On Monday 4th December the Government published a Green Paper laying out their plans for children and young people’s mental health services. We welcome many of their proposals, but – with services currently in a state of crisis – we think that far more needs to be done.
After publishing the Green Paper, the Government held a period of consultation for people to give their opinion on the new plans. We have written our response to the consultation in a letter to the Department of Health.
Mental health support teams to work with schools and colleges
£215 million to introduce mental health support teams, which would be linked to groups of schools and colleges. These teams would provide direct support to children with mild to moderate mental health problems, and help to make referrals to specialist services when they are needed. They would also provide advice and support to teachers and other professionals who work with children.
Far too many children with mental health problems don’t get help soon enough, and we’ve been campaigning for years to improve early intervention - so we welcome this proposal.
Mental health support teams could provide immediate support to children who might otherwise be left waiting months for help, and could bridge the gaps between schools, charities and specialist NHS services. Crucially, they could also provide guidance to school staff and other professionals including youth workers, social workers and others who work with vulnerable children.
But the proposals need to be more ambitious and be brought in more quickly. The scheme will be rolled out in just 20-25% of areas over the next five years –so it will not reach the majority of children who need help.
School leadership and training
Introducing designated leads for mental health in all schools and colleges, who will help identify problems early on, advise other teachers, ensure a whole-school approach to wellbeing, and make sure that referrals to specialist mental health services happen smoothly.
There are also proposals to make sure that every child will learn about mental health and wellbeing through compulsory RSE or PSHE lessons. The Department for Education has also committed to allocate some funding from the Teaching and Leadership Innovation Fund for training, which supports the delivery of whole school approaches, and there are plans to review the Ofsted framework and improve Initial Teacher Training.
We are very pleased that the Government has listened to our Wise Up campaign and recognised the important role that schools can play in building resilience and intervening quickly to support children with mental health problems. Under these proposals, there will be extra resources for schools, and students will learn more about mental health and wellbeing. We also welcome the commitments to look at the role of mental health in Initial Teacher Training and the Ofsted framework. These are all changes we called for in our campaign, and are important steps in the right direction.
But we think the Government should go further. Under the current plans, there will not be a designated lead in every school until 2025, which isn’t good enough. It is also crucial that mental health does not become the responsibility of just one teacher, or something that children learn about in one lesson. The wellbeing of children is as important as academic performance – and this is something that should be enshrined at every level of the education system.
That’s why it’s vital that the reviews of the Ofsted framework and of Initial Teacher Training lead to real action, and why all schools have the resources and recognition they need to allow them to take a whole-school approach to promoting wellbeing.
Waiting times for CAMHS
Introducing four week waiting time targets for access to CAMHS in some areas, which the NHS would seek to roll out across the country by 2022.
We know the devastating effects that long waiting times can have, and we have been calling for targets and far greater transparency about waiting times – so we are pleased that targets are being introduced.
However, we need more details about exactly what the targets mean, and they will have to be introduced in a way that does not cause unintended knock-on effects on other parts of the mental health system. And, with just one in four children with mental health problems currently receiving support from CAMHS, there will need to be additional, long-term funding to make these targets achievable.
Support for vulnerable families
Commissioning research on how to engage vulnerable families and ensure that parents get more support from local services. There will also be new guidance for schools that will address the effect of trauma on children’s behaviour.
We are pleased that the Green Paper focuses on the impact that a difficult start in life can have on mental health. One in three lifetime mental health problems are linked to adverse childhood experiences – including abuse, neglect, bereavement or growing up in poverty – and it is crucial that everyone who works with children understands the impact that these experiences can have on children’s behaviour, and how best to provide support.
What isn't included
While the Green Paper is a step in the right direction, there is much more that needs to be done. CAMHS services are severely overstretched, and will ultimately need more funding if they are to provide help to all the young people who need them. We also need to see improvements to inpatient care, so that the rights of children in mental health hospitals are strengthened and enforced. And it is crucial that the promotion of good mental health and emotional literacy for all children is a priority.
For more information about what we’re calling for, see our 10 priorities for the government.
We need to keep up the pressure to strengthen the proposals in the Green Paper, and so that the Government understands what else needs to change.
We have written our response to the Green Paper in a letter to the Department of Health. Our response is influenced directly by the views and experiences of the children, young people, parents and professionals that we work with.