We’re delighted a report by the Children’s Commissioner for England has highlighted the importance of school counselling and asked questions on the critical issue of how it should be funded.

Anne Longfield’s briefing The State of Children’s Mental Health Services is a powerful call to the Government to take urgent action to address the problems facing vulnerable young people when accessing mental health support.

She warned of a ‘chasm’ between what services are available and what children need. She said a service that meets the needs of all children who need treatment is still a decade away.

 “The Government doesn’t have a plan for a comprehensive service in every area and there is still no commitment to a counsellor in every school, which would make a huge difference,” she added.

Earlier this year, our Children, Young People and Families lead Jo Holmes met the commissioner and her team to speak about school counselling, stressing the importance of paid counsellors being based in schools.

Jo said: “This is a wide-ranging report on access to young people’s mental health services and I’m delighted to see the benefits of school counselling and the critical issues relating to its funding are featured prominently.

Reduce strain on specialist services

 “We know that school-based counselling is an investment that can transform young people’s lives. It doesn’t just benefit their mental health, but also their confidence, relationships, friendships, school attendance and academic achievement.

“If offered early enough, school counselling can be one of the answers to reducing the strain on more specialist services. The worrying figures in this report showing the postcode lottery children face when looking for mental health support highlight why further investment and in school counselling is so vital.

“The Children’s Commissioner has the ear of the Government and is a powerful ally for us to share this message with policy-makers, commissioners and Government. I’m looking forward to working with her team in the future.”

The report said while counselling is available in 61% of schools, 92% of the funding for this comes from the school’s core budget.

It revealed that less than half (47%) of schools employed a counsellor who was a member of a professional body; only 44% of school counsellors had a diploma or equivalent qualification. 15% had no qualifications in counselling, the report said.

Jo added: “When I’m talking to policy-makers, commissioners and school leaders, I always stress how our members are highly skilled and qualified, and have to uphold professional and ethical standards. It’s vital schools know the importance of employing counsellors registered with PSA-accredited professional bodies.”

Little incentive to invest

The report looks at the pros and cons of school counselling being funded by either the NHS; local authorities or schools themselves.

It said there was often too little incentive in place for local areas to invest – and too little funding available, for example, for schools to buy-in school counselling for all children who need it

While the Children’s Commissioner recognised that there had been an improvement in services, and increase investment, she said it was still no enough.

She added: “The Government urgently needs to commit to providing help to all children who need it. If not, far too many children with mental health problems will suffer as children, and then become adults without getting the help they need. And society will still be reaping the cost.”

Read The State of Children’s Mental Health Services report.