Pupils struggling with mental health are to benefit from more joined up care and support across schools, colleges and specialist NHS services, in a national roll out of a £9.3 million training scheme.
Every school, college and alternative provision will be offered training through a series of workshops as part of the Link Programme, with the most appropriate member of staff from each put forward to take part alongside mental health specialists. This is designed to improve partnerships with professional NHS mental health services, raise awareness of mental health concerns and improve referrals to specialist help when needed.
The four-year scheme will be led by the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, backed by the multi-million-pound government investment. It builds on 1,500 schools and colleges that have already taken up this training during the pilot stage of the programme, launched in 2015.
Starting in September, the training will be rolled out to schools and colleges in phases over four years, being offered to up to 22,000 schools and colleges, including alternative provision settings.
The Link Programme will deliver just under 1,000 training sessions across England involving two whole-day workshops for up to 20 schools at a time to cover all 22,000 schools, encouraging collaborative work so children do not fall between the cracks or experience poor transition between services.
One in nine young people aged 5 to 15 had a diagnosable mental health condition in 2017 and teenagers with a mental health disorder are more than twice as likely to have a mental disorder in adulthood. This package of measures is part of the Government’s plan to improve mental health support for children and young people, including identifying mental health issues before they become more acute.
Training will be prioritised in areas where schools and colleges are already attached to Mental Health Support Teams, following the Government’s announcement last December that these teams would be created in 25 ‘trailblazer’ areas.
The Government also confirmed that 124 new Mental Health Support Teams will be created in 48 areas across the country. Each designated team will support around 20 schools and colleges in their area, helping speed up access to specialist services and building on support already in place from school counsellors, nurses, educational psychologists and the voluntary sector, so that more children and young people get the help and support they need, when they need it.
This forms part of the Government’s ambitious plans to transform children and young people’s mental health through the NHS Long Term Plan.
Research highlights the important role the school environment plays in equipping children and young people with skills to support their own wellbeing. The Department for Education has this week also launched an exercise to recruit a specialist provider to deliver training for senior mental health leads in schools and colleges, so they have the skills and knowledge to promote positive mental health and wellbeing and implement effective processes for children and young people to receive appropriate support.
The second wave of Mental Health Support Team areas will benefit from early intervention support to young people with mild to moderate mental health needs. Teams will use the evidence available from research and other studies to strengthen the support that is available in schools and colleges, basing it on what they know is already working.
The announcements build on the Government’s wider investment in children’s mental health and wellbeing in schools and colleges, including compulsory health education lessons from 2020, to ensure every young person is given the tools to thrive despite challenges they may face growing up.