We’re calling on the Government to act on a new report highlighting how school counselling and mental health support teams (MHSTs) could provide significant cost savings for tax payers.

Jo Holmes, our Children, Young People and Families Lead, today welcomed the report from Barnardo’s, which calls for MHSTs+ plus counselling to be rolled out across schools and colleges in England.

It echoes our campaign for a paid counsellor should be available in every secondary school, academy and FE college in England.

School counselling

Jo said: “This is an important report by Barnardo’s that highlights the value of school counselling, not only to the children and young people it benefits but also to the public purse.

“The availability of counselling offers an accessible step care approach for existing teams to refer on to for those children who often fall into the missing middle, caught between what MHST’s currently offer and higher tiered CAMHs services.

“The report gives a true picture of what’s needed in schools and will take the pressure off CAMHS and off school staff, and provide wider access to counselling in the many schools that can’t afford to pay for additional counselling provision.

“The recommendations need to be acted on. They can’t go under the radar or simply be ignored.

“We’ll stress the importance of these findings to Claire Coutinho, the recently appointed Minister for Children, Families and Wellbeing, when we meet her in February."

The cost-benefit analysis by Barnardo’s is featured in its new report It's Hard to Talk - Expanding Mental Health Support Teams in Education. It found that for every £1 invested in MHSTs, there is a predicted return of £1.90 to the state. This is through savings in further health care costs and the indirect benefits of improved school attendance and educational attainment.  

At present, only around 1% of health and care funding is spent on children’s mental health and an estimated 6.5 million children are missing out on school-based support.

Barnardo’s report highlights how failing to roll out MHSTs now could cost the state £1.8 billion in alternative support from the NHS including the impact of poor mental health on young people’s future contribution to society. 

Counsellor in every school

The charity is calling on the Government to commit to expanding the MHST programme to every school and college in England. It's also calling for every school to have a trained and registered school counsellor, which would better meet the needs of some children and young people who are facing certain challenges.

Lynn Perry MBE, Barnardo’s CEO, said: “Without mental health support teams in schools, there’s no safety net to catch children who need help. Existing waiting lists for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) are groaning under the pressure, and high thresholds mean many children and young people have to wait until their mental health deteriorates before they get help.  

“We recognise that the Government can’t do everything, especially in the current economic climate. But we know that rolling out Mental Health Support Teams is the right thing to do both for young people today and for the country’s finances in the future. Extending this vital service would stop children falling through the cracks and set them on the right path to a positive future.”

Polly Atkins, Children’s Services Manager for Barnardo’s, said: “The consequences children and young people face when their mental health is not looked after can be huge and far-reaching. We are now also seeing how poor mental health can directly contribute to low academic attainment, which will inhibit their long-term career opportunities.  

“In more severe cases, we know that young people who are experiencing poor mental health are self-harming or even taking their own lives, which is sadly a leading cause of death amongst children and young people.  

“As teachers will know their children, they are in a good position to notice any changes in their behaviour, such as a student becoming withdrawn, their grades dropping or if they stop doing their homework. But we also know that teachers are time poor. That’s why the Government-funded specialist Mental Health Support Teams and counselling support would ensure that children can thrive both in and outside of school and into later life.”

Support our work

If you’d like to strengthen the argument for the Government’s flagship mental health support teams to be extended to include counselling then please support our influencing work and raise this with your local MP. You can do this in a number of ways, including writing directly to them.

Please read our influencing guide for further information on our key policy asks and useful tips on engaging with your local representatives.