This week will likely see the launch of the main party manifestoes. One of BACP’s asks over consecutive elections has been around school counselling and we’ve been successful too. In 2015 we saw a commitment from one of the major parties to implement a strategy should they be elected. A similar call at the Scottish elections almost led to universal cross-party support for our push for a counsellor in every secondary school.

We’ve long campaigned as an organisation for universal access to a school-based counsellor for all secondary schools across the UK. Despite Wales and Northern Ireland having national school-based counselling strategies; England has yet to demonstrate a similar commitment to children’s mental wellbeing by developing one. While we mustn’t ignore the counselling blueprint Counselling for Schools: a blueprint for the future (DH, 2015) which was an important step, it’s just not enough and provision remains patchy.

Wales has already legislated (back in 2007) to ensure statutory provision of school-based counselling to all Y6 pupils and all 11–18 years olds; and Northern Ireland ring-fenced funding for post primary school children to access counselling services in the same year. Surely, children in England and Scotland deserve the same?

Whoever forms the next government has a number of reasons to implement school-based counselling. It works – and there is the evidence to prove it! The groundwork has already been done; the reasons for school-based counselling’s effectiveness are clear, and there are lots of them:

  • School-based counselling 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
  • School-based counselling 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
  • Children and young people are more likely to see an in-house school-based counsellor compared to non school-based services; it cuts down their fears of stigma
  • School-based counselling helps with behaviour and learning
  • School-based counselling works as a parallel support alongside CAMHS and reduces referrals to these specialist and costly services
  • School-based counselling is cost effective. One session of CAMHS costs the same as five sessions of school counselling

The Children’s Society is also calling for school-based counselling. Dr Sam Royston, Director of Policy and Research says:

“School is one of the best places for children’s mental health needs to be identified and help given. A child’s mental health may be affected by problems such as bullying or by other major issues outside of school like abuse or neglect. To help children and young people build resilience, we are urging the Government to give children a legal entitlement to receive counselling in schools and colleges in England. Evidence shows that this can help promote children’s well-being, as well as ensuring there is a quick response when mental health problems first emerge. This provision should be matched by sufficient funding to ensure all young people benefit from consistent and high quality support.”

We know the benefits are many; which is why we want to see the next UK Government commit to developing a national school-based counselling strategy, demonstrating a commitment to children’s mental wellbeing, on a par with Wales and Northern Ireland. And you can help.

Will you ask your would-be MP?

  • Do you know that children and young people in Wales and Northern Ireland already have national strategies for school-based counselling yet the 10% of children with a mental health disorder in England don’t?
  • What would you/your party do to improve mental health services for children in England? Does this include access to a counsellor in every secondary school? If not, why not?

Without further political impetus England’s children will continue to remain behind their peers in Wales and Northern Ireland in terms of emotional support. Thank you for your commitment to help and support us in this important ask.