Our response to the Government Green Paper – Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision
On December 4th 2017, the government released their green paper - "Transforming children and young people’s mental health provision". Whilst we believe that the changes highlighted in this paper are a step in the right direction, we strongly feel that more needs to be done if we are going to successfully begin to change the lives of children and young people dealing with mental illness.
We particularly welcome the public consultation to share feedback regarding the mental health needs of children and young people and urge everyone to participate in this.
You can have your say by clicking here, to go to the government website and fill out the form.
Below is our response to key parts of this green paper.
What it says:
Every child will learn about mental wellbeing.
What it says:
“We know that what is taught to pupils is an important part of any whole school approach. We have already funded guidance and lesson plans for teaching about mental health in Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHE) through the years of compulsory education (Key stages 1-4). To take this further we made a manifesto commitment that every child will learn about mental wellbeing, building on the existing sound base that schools offer to pupils. We will decide the most effective way to deliver on our manifesto commitment through the engagement process for deciding next steps on PSHE, relationships and sex education (RSE) in secondary schools, and relationships education in primary schools.”What we think:
While we welcome this and recognise it as much needed progression, incorporating mental health education into relationships and sex education (RSE) will not give the time and focus needed. Mental health education needs to be a standalone, compulsory subject, that is the only way it will receive the amount of time and dedication required. Failing to provide compulsory mental health education as its own entity will lead to inconsistencies in the way in which pupils are being taught about mental health and this will in turn reduce the effectiveness of the teaching – assuming it is even taught at all. This can only be dangerous for our future generation.
In order for mental health education to be effective, it needs to have set and robust structure for implementation. To effectively address the growing mental health epidemic in this country – to educate children and young people to the point that it has a positive, knock-on effect throughout their lives and the lives of others – we need to commit to mandated, and therefore consistent, mental health education.
We owe it to our children and young people to help develop their psychological resilience and having a compulsory and uniformed approach to delivering mental health education in schools is the only way of fulfilled that goal. It is also the only way that those who do NOT suffer with mental health issues can fully understand and support their peers – rather than inadvertently promoting stigma.
A Designated Senior Lead for Mental Health in every school and college. Mental Health Support Teams to work with clusters of schools and colleges across the country.
What it says:
The main proposals from the government for implementing a Designated Senior Lead for Mental Health, and for creating Mental Health Support Teams are:
- “To support every school and college to identify and train a Designated Senior Lead for Mental Health, building on existing practice in many parts of the country and the lessons from our successful schools link pilots. We will roll out this training to all areas by 2025.
- To establish new Mental Health Support Teams, supervised by NHS children and young people’s mental health staff and linked to groups of schools and colleges. These teams will work with the Designated Senior Leads for Mental Health in schools and colleges, and provide new capacity locally for addressing the needs of children with mild to moderate mental health issues. They will also provide the link with more specialist NHS mental health services so that children can more swiftly access help they need, if that is necessary.”
What we think:
This is definitely a positive proposal and an improvement on the current status quo. And when you consider that 1 in 5 children will experience a mental health issue before age 11, this is something that will inevitably help those with mental health issues, in a school environment. However, without proper education and understanding, children may still find it difficult to come forward about how they are feeling. Mental illness can be a difficult concept to grasp for anyone at any age. A struggling child may feel ashamed and scared to admit that they need help. The pressures of opening up about something like that, in an environment where you are surrounded by friends and peers, often cause young people to worry about judgement and, as a result, they often find it hard to talk at all.
The government have also stated that they will help to provide a new capacity locally, for addressing the needs of children with mild to moderate mental health issues.
But what about the children with more severe mental health issues? What about the children whose “symptoms” may not be as visibly obvious? For example, what about those with high functioning anxiety? Are these children going to slip through the net? We need to be looking at ways to help all children and young people, and compulsory mental health education, taught in its own entity with national uniformity, will do just that.
Mental Health Support teams will also be able to provide school support staff with advice and guidance on working effectively with young people who are struggling as a result of mental illness. This sounds great in theory, but the government have stated that these proposals will be rolled out to “a fifth to a quarter of the country by 2022/23” and covering all areas by 2025. This is something that could be, and needs to be, done more quickly. Children and young people need this support in their schools immediately. By focusing on such a small percentage initially, we will only be ensuring that a lot of children – in need of support – won’t get this as quickly as it is required.
Shorter waiting times for access to mental health services.
What it says:
“The government wants to reduce the time it takes to get treatment from children and young people’s mental health services. Some of the areas with new mental health support teams will try out ways of bringing this time to 4 weeks (quicker for young people who need very urgent help).”
What we think:
Shorter waiting times for access to treatment is another great step forward. Alongside early intervention, this is will make a huge impact on the lives of children and young people, enabling them to gain access to much-needed help and support sooner.
Our main concern, however, is the effects that this may have on other areas of the NHS and other mental health services in the interim. There are over 850,000 UK children aged between 5-16, who struggle with mental health issues, and only 25% of children and young people receive help and support from services such as CAMHS. As this is something that will add pressure onto our already strained services, it is imperative that there is sufficient funding and support available to ensure the government can achieve these waiting times successfully without adding pressure to the current services.
We appreciate that the government have taken a step forward in this area, and we are happy to have been a part of that progression. But this all still falls disappointingly short of what our society desperately needs. We have said, time and time again, that compulsory mental health education is the only way we can effectively tackle this mental health epidemic.
There are no benefits or advantages for not giving children and the next generation compulsory mental health education. Anything other than compulsory falls short of ensuring a healthy society and economy.
And for this reason, we will continue to campaign and fight tirelessly for this cause. We will continue to help those who suffer, their loved ones and anyone else directly or indirectly affected by mental illness. We will also continue to support – and fight for – legislation that does the same.