We’re pleased that Labour has reaffirmed its commitment to introduce trained counsellors for children and young people in every UK school in its new Child Health Action Plan.

The plan was launched following recent Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) data showing British children’s health and wellbeing is increasingly falling behind their international counterparts. It outlines Labour’s plans to reverse what they call ‘plummeting child health outcomes’ over the last 14 years.

Plan to recruit more trained counsellors

Also included in the plan is a commitment to reduce waiting lists by recruiting more mental health workers and deliver open access children and young people's mental health hubs for every community.

Jo Holmes, our Children, Young People and Families Lead, said: “We’re delighted that Labour’s commitment to improving children and young people’s mental health includes many of the measures we have campaigned on.

“We’ve worked to highlight, to MPs and the Government, the reasons why school counselling is vital and the positive difference counsellors can make in young people’s lives. Our campaigning has helped secure commitments to funding school counselling in three consecutive Labour manifestos since 2015.

“We’ve also supported the ‘Fund the Hubs’ cross-charity campaign group, advocating the Youth Access YIACS (youth information advice & counselling service) early help model, which calls for funding for those young people up to the age of 25 to access the hubs in every community.”

Increasing the mental health workforce

When it comes to increasing the mental health workforce we know that around a third of our members, approximately 19,000 counsellors, have undertaken specific training for working therapeutically with children and young people aged 5 to 18.

Of those trained specifically to work with children and young people, over half have said they would like more paid client work and, on average, have the capacity to take on an extra five clients per week.

Extrapolating these figures, we suggest that BACP members are trained and available to work with over 51,000 additional young people per week. This goes some way to help fill any existing gaps in the availability of counselling to children and young people.

Jo continued: “We’ve worked in partnership with Citizens UK to produce a joint policy paper that we’ll share with Labour on funding model options as well as highlighting ways to increase the workforce capacity.

“We’ve used this opportunity to distinguish between the one year post graduate training required for mental health professionals offering early help interventions in schools (delivered by mental health support teams) and the level of training required to become a counsellor working in schools.

“We’ll continue to stress the value of counsellors supporting children and young people who often fall into the ‘missing middle’, of services, where school counselling ideally sits.

“We’re delighted Labour’s vision includes increasing access to mental health support in the community as well as in schools, broadening the choice for young people who see counselling as essential to support their mental health and reduce psychological distress."