The Welsh Assembly’s Children, Young People and Education Committee today (26 April) published recommendations on its important inquiry into the emotional and mental health of children and young people – Mind over matter.

The report demonstrates that school-based counselling is making a significant contribution to building an emotionally resilient population of young people. But it also shows that services are often over-stretched and could do more good if they could be expanded to reach younger children earlier (the current statutory allocation only supports pupils of secondary school age).

Some 19% of the young people who responded to the Children and Young People’s Committee survey had used school or college-based counselling. However, some students interviewed highlighted a degree of shame associated with leaving lessons to visit the school counsellor. The school-based counselling operating toolkit, published jointly by the Welsh Government and BACP, states that counselling services need to be non-stigmatising, so, this feedback must be addressed, particularly given the evidence that counselling services in schools are more likely to be accessed by young people than those that aren’t school-based.

Dr Andrew Reeves, chair of BACP said: “We welcome the findings and we are pleased to see it endorses the critical role that counselling is playing to support vulnerable children and young people in Wales.

"Of the 11,558 children and young people in Wales who received counselling services in 2016 to 2017, 85% did not need an onward referral after completing their sessions. This not only shows the value of the counselling but also its effects in reducing pressure on an often overstretched CAHMS service, as just 3.6% required onward referral.

"BACP is proud to have played an active role in supporting the Welsh Government to develop school-based counselling in Wales so far, through our involvement in the initial pilot, comprehensive service evaluation in 2011, and toolkit development to shape delivery.

"The Committee’s call for the Welsh Government to undertake an assessment into the quality of the statutory school counselling available to ensure the service can cope with increasing demand and be non-stigmatising is one we wholeheartedly support.

"We would welcome the chance to help the Welsh Government address concerns around stigma, to shape the service so children and young people can access it without barriers.”

Notes for editors

  • The Wales School Counselling Service supports children and young people aged between 11 and 18 and pupils in Year 6 of primary school.
  • Welsh Government published annual analysis about its independent school counselling programme in April 2018 which confirms the important impact school-based counselling is having on vulnerable school children in Wales.
  • In total, 11,558 children or young people received counselling services in 2016 and 2017.
  • The analysis showed 63% of girls received counselling compared to 37% of boys.
  • The most common presenting issue was family problems and nearly 75% of those who had counselling were between 12 and 16 years old. 85% of those who were given counselling did not need an onward referral after completion of counselling sessions and only 3.6% required onward referral to specialist CAMHS.
  • Those surveyed in the Committee's report Mind over matter noted that there were “nowhere near enough” counselling services.
  • Currently, only Wales and Northern Ireland have statutory provision of these services, while young people in England and Scotland are subject to a postcode lottery of access to support.