While we commend the Government on its focus and commitment to children and young people’s mental health, we believe the recommendations set out in Transforming children and young people’s mental health provision: a green paper are a missed opportunity to deliver the most effective mental health support in our schools and colleges.
The programme of work set out by the Government in the green paper isn’t set to begin until 2019, and only then in a pilot format targeting an unambitious 25% countrywide by 2023. So until at least 2019, and likely well beyond, England’s children will continue to remain behind their peers in Wales and Northern Ireland in terms of emotional support.
We believe there are some important questions that need answering about the nature of the therapy on offer and the presenting issues within these proposals:
- Why are the service models which are already tried and tested in Wales, not being used? They are already working and by following Wales’ lead we could enable psychological therapy provision to be rolled out much more quickly to a larger number of schools and colleges.
- Why is there so much focus on anxiety and depression; when we know from Wales evaluation data the top three presenting issues for young people are family issues, anger and stress, with anxiety the fourth reason and depression not featuring until number eight. Importantly, will our children and young people now have to have these labels in order to get treatment?
- What level of training will the ‘Mental Health Support Teams’ have to work with young people? The Government are again choosing to ignore thousands of highly-trained and under-utilised counsellors and psychotherapists. The counselling workforce is already there, trained and willing to fill these posts now and immediately start helping young people get the support they need.
Dr Andrew Reeves, Chair of BACP says: “The Department of Education in its guidance, Counselling in Schools: a blueprint for the future set out an expectation for schools to provide access to a properly trained counsellor. This green paper should have been used to finally make that expectation a reality. It’s such a missed opportunity.
"BACP understands the importance of working with children and young people which is why we have a Counselling young people (11-18 years) training curriculum; to be used alongside our Competences for humanistic counselling with young people (11-18 years).
"But we don’t feel that a predominant focus on CBT (as this appears it will be) is necessarily the right way to work with children and young people. The issues that children and young people present with to school services are generally more suited to a humanistic approach.
"The existing workforce and ability to top up training using children and young people’s competencies mean that this programme could happen much sooners than the 2020s by which time thousands of children will have missed out on their chance to be helped.
"BACP will be engaging fully in the consultation process and our thorough and robust response will urge the Government to be more ambitious in its proposals, ensuring children and young people can access the most effective psychological therapy services, delivered by highly trained practitioners, and available in a place and time that is most convenient for them.”