Brighton and Hove council has announced £200,000 for a pilot scheme of counselling services in secondary schools following our joint campaign with Citizens UK.

The one year project, planned to start in September 2024, will focus on year nines across 10 schools in Brighton. It was announced at a Brighton and Hove council meeting earlier this month attended by Jo Holmes, our Children and Young People and Families Lead and Senior Research Fellow Charlie Duncan.

Better value and timely support 

As well as providing timely support to children and young people the councillors were told the three-year pilot scheme would be much better value than referring pupils to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS). Especially so now when CAMHS services are under enormous pressure.

At the meeting Charlie explained how the impact of the pilot could be measured and potentially how BACP could help with the evaluation. The aim is to develop a model of working with Mental Health Support Teams (MHSTs) and other school wellbeing services with a clear referral pathway to counselling for more complex needs.

Local petition by sixth-formers

The council was also presented with a 2,000-signature petition by two local sixth formers, Fi Abou-Chanad and Tally Wilcox.

Speaking to BBC Radio Sussex today about the announcement and our campaign, Jo said:

“This is fantastic news and well done to Fi Abou-Chanad and Tally Wilcox for their hard work. We’ve long campaigned for funding for a counsellor in every secondary school in England.

“We know from NHS data that 1 in 5 children have a diagnosable mental health condition. So, investment in early help in schools will help with the growing demand and prevent issues becoming more complex over time. It’ll provide support for children who need help but don’t meet the threshold for access to CAMHS.

"At a time when CAMHS are under so much pressure, the government should be investing in school counselling to support our young people before they reach crisis, and prevent an overwhelming demand on mental health services in years to come.

“England needs to catch up with other UK nations regarding Government funded counselling interventions offered to children and young people – and there is no more crucial time than to influence this agenda in the run up to a general election.

“We have more than 19,000 members who are trained to work therapeutically with children and young people. They need to be part of the solution to the children’s mental health crisis.”