The number of young people calling about child-on-child sexual abuse has risen sharply, according to figures released by Childline today (18 September).
We share Childline's concern and are continuing to urge the Government to give serious thought to providing the right support for all levels of mental health need - whether that be CAMHS, or in schools.
Having help available in schools is vital. We know school-based counselling is a proven early intervention which improves children and young people’s mental health and emotional wellbeing. It is also quick and easy for children to access, usually in just two to three weeks, and can work as a parallel support alongside CAMHS.
Children in Northern Ireland and Wales already have access to a school counsellor through government supported national programmes, with Scotland committing to follow suit, while in England provision remains patchy.
Worryingly 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. Instead it is ploughing ahead with its decision to create and train a whole new workforce of ‘wellbeing practitioners’.
The question to Government - ‘Why not simply extend counselling to all schools, using existing qualified counsellors?’ - is one which must be asked again. Particularly when a programme of ‘wellbeing practitioners’ is slower and costlier to deliver.
BACP Chair Dr Andrew Reeves says: “We recognise the fantastic work done by Childline in providing free, confidential support for our vulnerable children and young people. However, many more may not be accessing help but could if counselling was also available in their school.
“We remain hugely concerned that, without the development of a national school-based counselling strategy with a commitment for a trained counsellor in every secondary school, England’s children will continue to remain behind in terms of emotional support.
“The Government’s focus on creating a completely new, untried and untested system in its proposed ‘wellbeing practitioners’ is incomprehensible. Will they have the competence to deal with issues such as peer-on-peer sexual abuse or have the support within their teams to refer on children who need additional help?
“Thousands of highly-trained and under-utilised counsellors and psychotherapists are already available. They would be able to immediately start helping young people – such as the increasing numbers turning to Childline for help with often complex emotional issues - get the support they need.”