The Government is set to plough ahead with plans for a pilot programme of mental health practitioners in schools, ignoring widespread criticism from BACP and others about the ambition and reach of its plans.

We are hugely disappointed by today’s Government response to the consultation on the Transforming children and young people’s mental health provision green paper. Instead of listening to the views of stakeholders, the Government has retained its proposals, which will mean help comes too late for many children. 

The Government has also chosen to disregard the views of parliamentarians, including those on the Education and Health and Social Care Committee. Their damning report - The Government’s green paper on mental health: failing a generation - urged the Government to take on board the comments of stakeholders to ensure the final policy proposals were ones that can truly deliver for the nation’s children and young people.

We strongly believe the Government is missing the opportunity to deliver the most effective mental health support in schools and colleges.

The decision to create and train a whole new workforce of mental health practitioners, instead of using existing qualified counsellors, is one which will be slower and more costly to deliver than extending counselling to all schools. The provision of school-based counselling is statutory in both Wales and Northern Ireland, where reviews of its effectiveness have shown a direct impact. In both, the number of referrals to CAMHS reduced, easing pressure on secondary mental health services and saving money. Perversely, the Government has ignored its own expectation for a trained counsellor in all secondary schools set out in Counselling in Schools: a blueprint for the future.

Training for these practitioners won’t begin until 2019, and only then in a pilot format targeting an unambitious 25% countrywide by 2023. Counselling is already delivered in 61% of all schools and an even higher proportion of secondary schools. We retain the view that extending counselling provision in schools would help a greater proportion of young people in a shorter amount of time.

While we've noted the comment in the response that ‘it is essential that the teams build on and increase the support already in place, for example high quality counselling services in schools and colleges, instead of replacing it’, we have serious concerns that these proposals will lead to a reduction in counselling provision in schools. We demand the Government puts in place a mechanism to monitor the availability of counselling in schools and colleges to ensure that provision is not just maintained but increased.

BACP Chief Executive Officer, Dr Hadyn Williams says: “We remain hugely concerned by the Government’s focus on creating a completely new, untried and untested system in its proposed ‘mental health support teams’. This ignores the thousands of highly-trained and under-utilised counsellors and psychotherapists who are already there, trained and willing to fill these posts now and immediately start helping young people get the support they need.

"We understand the importance of working with children and young people. That 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).

"Courses at the seven universities, which will offer education mental health practitioner courses to would-be mental health support team members, won’t even start until January 2019. Using the existing counselling and psychotherapy workforce is a quicker, cost-effective solution. This could happen much sooner than the 2020s, by which time thousands of children will have missed out on their chance to be helped.”

Further information

Government's response to the consultation (pdf)

The Government’s green paper on mental health: failing a generation (pdf)

Counselling in Schools: a blueprint for the future (pdf)

Counselling young people (11-18 years) training curriculum (pdf 0.7MB) 

Competences framework for working with young people (11-18 years) (pdf 0.5MB)