While the first Review of children and young people's mental health services report recognised that counselling in schools is effective, we are concerned that the second fails to acknowledge the excellent work that is already in place in 61% of schools. This second report does, however, highlight a very worrying gap in services between schools and CAHMS.
We know that school-based counselling is a proven early intervention which improves children and young people’s mental health and emotional wellbeing, and can aid with a quick response when mental health problems first emerge.
That is why we continue to campaign for school-based counselling, and highlight that it:
- can stop mental health problems from developing further - this early intervention treatment can stop conditions accelerating into something more serious and complex, and offer children the tools to recognise when they are experiencing difficulties with their mental wellbeing
- is easy for children to access – children and young people are seen usually in two to three weeks, it would be unusual to wait longer than four weeks to be assessed by a school counsellor
- cuts down children and young people’s fears of stigma: they are more likely to see an in-house school-based counsellor compared to non school-based services
- works as a parallel support alongside CAMHS and reduces referrals to these specialist and costly services
- is cost effective – one session of CAMHS costs the same as five sessions of school counselling
Unlike phase one, phase two of the report has scant reference to school-based counselling. The only mention is ‘In another area, we heard that schools were no longer funding school counsellors, resulting in increased pressure on other school staff.’
This mention, however, aligns with findings from research published by children’s mental health charity Place2Be, in partnership with NAHT, BACP, and UKCP as part of Children’s Mental Health Week which found that for both schools and therapists, a lack of funding remains the most common barrier to providing support.
This barrier is of critical concern as evidence shows at least 50% of mental health problems in adults are established by the age of 14.
In common with this phase two report, the UK Government’s recently published green paper on Transforming children and young people’s mental health provision in England recognised the “vital role” that schools can play in identifying and supporting young people experiencing problems.
However, the green paper proposals did not include any additional funding for most schools, and proposed new ‘Mental Health Support Teams’ could only reach a quarter of the country by the end of 2022 to 23, running the risk of greater inequality for young people.
School counselling is wanted and needed, indeed there is already a highly trained and professional workforce waiting to take up counselling roles in schools, which would reduce the costs and time of implementation and require minimal top-up training, rather than training a whole new workforce.
Dr Andrew Reeves, chair of BACP said:
“While BACP welcomes the opportunity to be involved in such an important review into children’s mental health, as with the green paper, we remain concerned. Despite the expectation set out in the Department for Education’s Counselling for schools: a blueprint for the future there has still been no progress towards a trained counsellor in every secondary school in England.
"In the first report children and young people themselves highlighted ‘a lack of support in schools’ as one of their key concerns, saying that they ‘want schools-based counselling to be available’.
"This second report serves to further highlight that without political impetus England’s children will continue to remain behind their peers in Wales and Northern Ireland in terms of emotional support.
"The benefits of school counselling are well established, as we have seen from the success in Wales and Northern Ireland. But England has yet to demonstrate a similar support for children’s mental wellbeing.
"School leaders must be given the funding to be able to recruit counsellors and the knowledge to be confident that those counsellors have the right training, skills and knowledge to work with children and young people.”
Read the report: