The Welsh Government has announced an extra £1.25 million of funding to strengthen the delivery of school counselling services to support children and young people’s mental health during the coronavirus crisis.

Health Secretary Kirsty Williams said the additional funding was to help prepare services for the anticipated increase in demand and would help them offer services remotely while schools were closed.

She said it was important for issues to be dealt with now – and not for it to wait until after the lockdown.

It comes as the Welsh Government also announced it was expanding its free mental health support service for doctors.

We welcome both funding announcements.

Outstanding commitment

Jo Holmes, our Children, Young People and Families Lead said: “This outstanding commitment demonstrates the value of school and community-based counselling to people in Wales – and the important role it plays in children and young people’s lives.

“The funding, which includes paying for additional counselling over the next year, will help reach those children and young people who we know will be struggling with a range of issues linked to change, loss, isolation, family worries, and other issues.

“The Welsh Government has always been a step ahead when it comes to funding school counselling. We’d love to see this investment replicated across the other UK nations to support young people in need.”

Lorraine Sherman is a therapist, supervisor and clinical director of Area 43, which provides counsellors to schools in the Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion areas of Wales.

She said: “It’s excellent news that the Welsh Government are responding to the current crisis with new funding for school counselling services.

Remote counselling

"Here in West Wales we are already in contact with many of the young people who were receiving counselling when the schools were open. We are using remote counselling in safe and creative ways.

“New funding will allow for more counselling hours.”

Lorraine, who is one of our accredited members and also a trainer, highlighted some of the issues young people are struggling with and how counsellors have adapted to help families cope with the lockdown.

Isolated and restricted

She said: “Young people feel isolated and restricted. They’re dealing with anxiety, uncertainty and loss.

We know there are families where arguments, alcohol or anger are commonplace. Young clients who were just beginning to share difficulties with their school counsellor have been interrupted and it may not always be safe for them to talk about this from home.

“In these cases counsellors want to also talk with parents about coping strategies, frustrations and ways to manage challenging behaviours. This, we believe, will be another way to help young clients who are potentially at risk in the pressure cooker of a lockdown.”

The Welsh Government has also expanded its free mental health service for doctors to provide support and advice for all frontline NHS Wales staff during the coronavirus pandemic. It announced an additional £1 million for the Health for Health Professionals Wales service to run more counselling sessions and conduct further PTSD interventions.