We briefed MPs ahead on our school counselling campaign ahead of a debate on support for children and families during the Covid-19 pandemic.

We’re delighted to see MPs highlighting the urgent need to improve access to counselling for children and families during the Westminster Hall debate, which was secured by MPs Danny Kruger, Tim Farron and Fiona Bruce.

Jim Shannon, the DUP MP for Strangford, is a supporter of our campaign and signed John Trickett’s recent Early Day Motion. He made a plea for UK Government to invest in school and college based counselling in England to ensure equality of access across the UK.

UK wide provision

"I’m proud Northern Ireland pioneered the introduction ​of a nationally funded school-based counselling service over 10 years ago to support our vulnerable children and young people, and such a service has been adopted by the Scottish and Welsh governments,” he said. “It’s important now there is UK-wide provision of this critical early intervention.

“We need to see more ambition; investing in school-based counselling services would help to serve the missing middle in terms of the support provided between child and adolescent mental health services and meeting the needs of the 75% to 80% of schools not supported under the new model.

“Mental health in the UK has worsened substantially as a result of the covid-19 pandemic—by 8.1% percent on average, and by much more for young adults and women, and those groups already had poor levels of mental health before covid-19.”

Counselling for families

Fiona Bruce, Conservative MP for Congleton, made a plea to provide access to counselling for families to support relationships and help tackle domestic abuse.

She said: “We’ve seen Covid support packages for businesses, self-employed, and those on benefits.

“All that support has an impact on the financial wellbeing of families; but what about supporting family resilience?

“Parents may need access at this time to support for their own mental health, when things get difficult for those with little children during lockdown. They may need support for substance and addiction issues, finances or housing.

"They may need relationship counselling or specialist support for domestic abuse. I’m not asking for a family bail-out, for billions for many different fighting funds to fix a dozen different symptoms, however serious those are.

“I simply ask that the government commit fully to the bigger picture, given that they’ve already signed up to this, and for a cabinet-level minister to actively bring together cross-government efforts to strengthen families.”

In response,  Vicky Ford, Minister for Children and Families, defended the government's position.

She said: “Levels of anxiety have increased for certain cohorts of children and young people, especially disabled children, BAME children, disadvantaged groups and those with previous mental health conditions.

“This is why we introduced the Wellbeing for Education Return project, which gives support for schools and colleges, delivered in their local area by local mental health experts. Over 97% of local authorities have signed up to that.

“We must continue our Green Paper commitment to introduce new mental health support teams in all schools and colleges and training for senior mental health leads and faster access to specialist support.”

Cross-party support

Steve Mulligan, our Four Nations lead, who briefed MPs in advance of the debate said: "While we’re pleased to see our campaign continuing to gather cross-party support, we must continue to use our allies to promote school and college based counselling as the existing plans are sadly inadequate.

“The government's proposals for Mental Health Support Teams were developed in advance of the pandemic and will not serve 75% to 80% of schools in England.

“We need to see more ambition from UK government and will continue our fight to secure universal access to counselling for our vulnerable children and young people across each of the nations of the UK.”

We’re pleased that thousands of members have written to their MPs to ask them to support our campaign and to sign Jon Trickett MP's EDM calling for investment in school based counselling. The Motion has now attracted signatures from 22 MPs. 

Visit our school counselling campaign page to take action.