#MentalHealthAwarenessWeek - Thousands of children and young people will benefit from better support and expert advice in school and college thanks to a new multi-million package of mental health support designed to help them recover from the challenges of the pandemic.   

As part of Mental Health Awareness week, the Government has today (Monday 10 May) announced more than £17 million to build on mental health support already available in education settings, as it continues to prioritise wellbeing alongside academic recovery.  

Up to 7,800 schools and colleges in England will be offered funding worth £9.5 million to train a senior mental health lead from their staff in the next academic year, part of the Government’s commitment to offering this training to all state schools and colleges by 2025.

Funding also includes a new £7 million Wellbeing for Education Recovery programme, which provides free expert training, support and resources for staff dealing with children and young people experiencing additional pressures from the last year – including trauma, anxiety, or grief. The programme builds on the success of the Department for Education’s Wellbeing for Education Return, used by more than 90% of councils since its launch last summer.

Gavin Williamson 100x100Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said:  

“I know how difficult the pandemic has been for many children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing, and the next few months will be crucial in supporting their recovery. Getting back into the classroom was a vital step in this process but success in school and college goes beyond an excellent education – as parents we want our children to feel settled, calm and happy while they learn. 

“That’s why we’re providing new funding to make experts available for support, advice and early intervention or specialist help, so every young person knows who and where to turn to as we build back better after the pandemic.” 

The Department for Education will also fund an adapted ‘Link' programme which is designed to improve partnerships between health and education leaders in local areas, raise awareness of mental health concerns and improve referrals to specialist help when needed. 

The next Mental Health in Education Action Group, to take place on Monday 24 May, will continue to build on this support for all education settings, staff, parents, children and young people. Led by Ministers, and including Youth Mental Health Ambassador Dr Alex George, the work aims to better align the education and mental health sectors, including charities, to address concerns among leaders and staff about how best to support their pupils and students post-pandemic. 

Vicky Ford 100x100Children and Families Minister Vicky Ford said:  

“The past year has been incredibly difficult for so many children and young people whose resilience in the face of so much change has been heroic . Staff have been working so hard to support their pupils so I’m thrilled to be able to reassure them that we’re increasing funding, specialist support and training materials for expert care – building on the success of Wellbeing for Education Return and ensuring that the help is there for the children who need it.” 

Minister for Mental Health, Nadine Dorries, said:

“Our children and young people have faced unique challenges over the course of this very difficult and unsettling pandemic, and while they have shown great resilience, I recognise the need for additional support.

“It is essential that children and young people can access the support they need and this extra funding further cements our commitment to their wellbeing, equipping them with the tools to look after their mental health.”

To support staff mental health, the Department for Education will also launch an Education Staff Wellbeing Charter this week, with a cross-sector commitment to protect and promote the wellbeing of all staff working in schools and colleges. The Department has also appointed Timewise – the national flexible working training provider – to train staff to implement flexible working where possible, and eight flexible working ambassador schools have been appointed to champion best practice and work with other schools locally.

Within the higher education sector, Universities Minister Michelle Donelan and incoming President of Universities UK Professor Steve West will jointly chair a new roundtable on suicide prevention in June. Through this they will develop and support the adoption of the Suicide Safer Universities framework and promote good practice in the sector, helping to make sure students are well supported during their time at university.   

Michelle Donelan 100x100Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said: 

“Students and university staff have faced disruption and uncertainty over the past year, and supporting their mental health and wellbeing remains a top priority.  

“The Suicide Prevention roundtable with UUK is an important step in our commitment to supporting higher education providers to care for their students experiencing mental health issues, and I am proud to be a part of it. I strongly urge anyone who is struggling with mental health issues to seek help from their local NHS trust, which now provides dedicated, 24-hour support lines, including suicide prevention support.” 

Catherine Roche, Chief Executive of children’s mental health charity Place2Be, said:  

“Schools are truly on the frontline in supporting the recovery from the pandemic. So equipping them with the knowledge, skills and understanding to take a ‘whole school’ approach to mental health is vital. This long-awaited funding for Mental Health Leads training from the Government’s 2017 Green Paper is a step in the right direction.” 

Professor Peter Fonagy, Chief Executive of the Anna Freud Centre said:

“This investment is targeted to achieve the best possible results for children and young people. The Wellbeing for Education Recovery programme will help alleviate some of the deep distress caused by the coronavirus crisis. Funding for senior mental health leads means that children will receive mental health care faster, and it will embed wellbeing in schools and colleges for pupils and staff alike. New funding for the Link programme will continue to build strategic bridges between education and health services, so that children can get the help they need when they need it. This investment will bring immediate benefit and have lasting impact.”  

Cllr Teresa Heritage, Vice Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said:

“This funding is a positive step to help address mental health problems, which have been exacerbated during the pandemic, particularly for children living in families with lower incomes and whose parents may be experiencing financial difficulties.

“Local councils and schools have a vital role in helping children have mentally healthy childhoods and mental health needs to be at the heart of a holistic approach to overall health and wellbeing, which includes school-based support and investment in community-based services, such as youth services.

“Supporting children early on to reduce the need for clinical interventions means more can receive help when they need it, rather than waiting until they are unwell. It is vital that effective and evidence-based mental health and wellbeing services and statutory mental health services for children are able to meet existing, new and unmet demand that has built up during the pandemic.”

Paul Whiteman 100x100Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:

“Teachers and school leaders have seen the impact lockdown and the pandemic has had on children’s mental health. Children are returning to school needing not just academic help, but a wide range of pastoral, mental health and wellbeing support too, all of which requires additional resources.

“But schools cannot be the only place children or their families are able to turn for help with mental health. The support of well-integrated and well-funded social and health services is equally vital. Sadly, these services have been seriously damaged by a decade of austerity.”

Paul added:

“The pandemic has increased some young people’s needs just as it has slowed the limited progress that has been made on this important issue.

“There is an even greater sense of urgency for additional resources to support the mental health and wellbeing of pupils. It is essential to increase the capacity of social care, health and other services to meet the growing demand and to reduce waiting times.

“In order for schools to fulfil their primary role as educators, other sectors such as social care, CAMHS and healthcare need to be supported to fully step back into their own roles.”

NASUWT COMMENTS ON THE GOVERNMENT’S PLEDGE TO BOOST MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT IN SCHOOLS

Dr Patrick Roach 100x100Commenting on the Government’s pledge of more than £17 million to go towards upgrading mental health support in schools, Dr Patrick Roach, General Secretary of the NASUWT-The Teachers’ Union, said:

“Additional funding to train thousands of senior mental health leads in schools is long overdue.

“The number of children with clinically significant mental health conditions has risen year on year and by 50% compared in the last three years alone.

“Last year saw a 35% increase in referrals to children’s mental health services, but only a 4% increase in children actually receiving support.

“This reality of the mental health crisis is continuing to have profound and lasting consequences for children and young people.

“The provision of school-based counselling in every primary and secondary school would be a good starting point.

“It must also be recognised that teachers cannot be expected to fill the gaps caused by cuts to mental health and wellbeing provision over the last decade.

“The Government must recognise that teachers have also been severely impacted by the pandemic - they have served on the frontline throughout and many are suffering mental health problems as a direct result.

“Our research shows that more than three quarters (79%) of teachers feel their job has adversely affected their mental health in the last 12 months, and nearly a quarter (23%) have sought medical help to cope.

“The Government cannot expect teachers to simply soldier on. Many teachers are now at crisis point and threatening to leave the profession.

“The success of education recovery depends upon the wellbeing of teachers, and the Government must urgently set out how it intends to support teachers’ mental health and wellbeing.”

Josh Krichefski, Global COO and EMEA CEO at MediaCom said: 

“Over the past year we have changed how we work, how we interact with family & friends, how we socialise and how we live our life. And while no-one could have prepared for the pandemic it has firmly shone a light on the importance of people’s mental health. This year’s theme, nature, is important because we are all relearning what it means to connect with the world and having to reset our own state of wellbeing where stress, pressure and uncertainty has dominated for so many and for so long.

“The issue of mental health is centralised – though not exclusively – on the working world. People struggle because, too often, we look for quick fixes. Mental health – much like cyber security, diversity & inclusion or digital transformation – now needs to be at the heart of a company’s culture shift. Arranging training, a charity talk or weekly yoga are useful ways to help individuals manage their mental health, but they are perks, rather than the systemic change that’s required to enforce real progress.

“It’s why I’m calling for the mandatory reporting of mental health data for businesses across the UK, which would encompass the mental health of the individual, the impact of the workplace and the reaction to progress made by the business. This would happen annually through distributing a standardised and anonymised survey to all employees in business over 50 employees, with the end goal to have this debated in Parliament by the end of 2022. It’s never too late to talk about mental health and it’s certainly not too late to act on it – and by working alongside peers, healthcare experts and leaders in this field, we can effect real change and monitor progress (good and bad) properly.”

Between September 2021 and March 2022, more than 7,500 schools and colleges will be offered a grant to pay for senior mental health lead training with a backing of £9.5 million. Training will provide senior leads with the knowledge and skills to develop or introduce a Whole School or College Approach to mental health and wellbeing in their setting.to mental health and wellbeing in their setting, including by  encouraging staff to develop their own understanding of issues affecting their pupils, giving young people a voice in how their school or college addresses wellbeing and working with parents and monitoring pupils where appropriate. 

To help address the ongoing impact of prolonged Covid restrictions, additional funding for Wellbeing for Education Recovery will enable support to continue until September, and will be divided between councils to funding training and advisory support for schools and colleges.

Existing Wellbeing for Education Return materials, including local offers, are freely available online. These include a short Wellbeing for Education Return training webinar for school and further education staff as well as more in-depth content covering wellbeing and resilience, bereavement and loss, stress, trauma, anxiety and low mood. 

The Suicide Prevention roundtable and framework for the higher education sector will sit alongside the funding provided for student mental health which includes access to up to £256 million for universities to use towards mental health support in 2020/21, as well as £3 million funded by the Office for Students to provide Student Space, a dedicated mental health resource to students during this academic year.

The Department for Education has collated resources available for general and specialist mental health and wellbeing support, for children, students, parents, carers and school/ college staff, online at our Education Hub.  

To help children and young people, their parents and carers manage their mental wellbeing, deal with stress and tackle issues like anxiety and uncertainty, Public Health England has a series of dedicated resources on the Every Mind Matters website

Public Health England Psychological First Aid for children and young people provides free, short online e-learning for adults and young people on supporting children and young people aged 0-25 during emergency and crisis situations (including the pandemic).  

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