BACP strongly supports the Children’s Commissioner for England’s call for an NHS-funded counsellor to be placed in every school.

Anne Longfield said children do not want a formal or medicalised service, but one that is open and accessible.

She added that while most young people want to be able to access support through their school, some are keen on online support.

Ms Longfield said the most vulnerable children need services to come to them, with support provided in a child-friendly way.

Her Children’s Mental Health Briefing was released hours before NHS Digital today revealed that at least one in eight young people aged between five and 19 had at least one mental disorder when assessed in 2017.

Martin Bell, BACP’s deputy head of policy and public affairs, said:

“This is an important message from a powerful voice for children and we wholeheartedly welcome her support for counsellors to be available in every school.  We hope the Government listens.

Transformative impact

“We know counselling can change lives and that school-based counselling can have a transformative impact on children and their families’ lives. We should be shaping provision around vulnerable children’s needs enabling them to access treatment that will make a difference. The Children’s Commissioner joins a growing number of organisations backing BACP’s long-term campaign for a counsellor in every school, and we want to work together with to help this call become a reality. 

“There are growing and complex issues which are affecting young people’s mental health. It is important there are trained counselling professionals in schools to address mental health concerns, so teachers and other school staff can focus on education and reduce referrals to CAMHS so those services can support those in need of more specialist help.”

Children's commissioner for England Anne Longfield, said there should be an NHS-funded counsellor in every school.
Children's commissioner for England Anne Longfield, said there should be an NHS-funded counsellor in every school.

Ms Longfield said counsellors in schools should be part of the NHS 10-year plan.

“There is still a vast gap between what is provided for children suffering from mental health problems and what is needed to treat them. The current rate of progress is still not good enough for the majority of children who require help.

“I want to see the Government and NHS England dramatically increasing the level of ambition for children’s mental health services.

“By 2023, the NHS should be in a position to ensure no child who needs help is turned away. There also needs to be a focus on early help. An NHS-funded counsellor in every school, providing a service that is accessible and child-friendly, would be transformative.

“All of this will require funding and leadership, but the prize is worth pursuing, and the NHS 10-year plan is the time to do it. We must not let this chance pass.”

She also said in the report that slow progress was being made in improving specialist community services for children, waiting times were too long and she was concerned about numbers being rejected by services in some areas.

Other findings of her report include:

  • More than 338,000 children were referred to CAMHS last year. Less than a third (31%) of those received treatment within the year.
  • Another 37% were not accepted into treatment or discharged after an assessment appointment, and 32% were still on waiting lists at the end of the year.
  • Less than 3% of children in England accessed CAMHS last year. Ms Longfield said this was a small fraction of those who need help. The report says this is partly because many children who seek help are not accepted into treatment, but also because many children do not know they have a problem or do not seek help.
  • Around half of children who received treatment, were seen within six weeks. However, nearly 80% of children entering eating disorders treatment are seen within four weeks.
  • Most areas are increasing funding for CAMHS. However nearly 15 times as much is spent on adult mental health as on child mental health.
  • Children’s mental health services require an additional £1.7bn a year to achieve equivalent funding to that provided to adult mental health.