We're asking members, organisations and the general public to support our call for a counsellor in every school and college in England. This petition focuses on an important stop-gap measure for an emergency resilience fund to be immediately available in schools and colleges so head teachers and college principals can access additional funding to pay for essential counselling provision. We will share our support for this cause with the new Children’s Commissioner for England, Rachel De Souza, who is actively campaigning for a counsellor in every school.
We have concerns that the additional £79 Million funding announced by the Westminster Government on March 5th to support the roll-out of Mental Health Support Teams does not go far enough and will not reach the children and young people of England in time to respond to their current mental health needs. Our children need critical support now.
There is a counselling and psychotherapy workforce available to work immediately with children and young people but many schools are struggling to fund this additional support. Money is not currently ring fenced for this vital provision, although in Wales, Northern Ireland and more recently Scotland, the government fund school and community counselling across their respective nations. The programmes have been so successful that the Welsh and Northern Ireland Governments are committed to rolling out provision to primary aged children too.
The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) have been long calling for a national commitment to counselling provision for all children in England’s secondary schools and further education colleges. This ambition is supported by many partners across the mental health sector and most recently by the newly appointed Children’s Commissioner, Dame Rachel de Souza, in an article in The Sunday Times. This would give our children and young people in England universal access to funded professional therapeutic support; putting them on equal footing with children and young people across the rest of the UK.
While we recognise the Westminster Government has committed to increasing mental health support for children and young people, the NHS Long Term Plan commits to providing additional access to support for children and young people by 2023-24 through NHS funded mental health services, including the development of mental health support teams (MHSTs). The Government's announcement of £79 million to accelerate the training of additional psychological well-being practitioners to work in these roles is simply an acceleration of plans already in place prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The existing plans will not provide the coverage and pace of expansion required to tackle the growth in demand, MHSTs will still only work with just over one third of pupils in England by 2023. What’s more, psychological well-being practitioners are only trained to work with lower level mental health issues, counsellors can also work with more complex issues linked to childhood trauma and adversity, and have the skill-set to best meet the needs of more of those who are struggling. Schools and colleges need access to emergency funding so they can make decisions to buy in additional counselling provision to meet these rising mental health needs immediately.
We call upon the Westminster Government to support the ask from Young Minds for a ring-fenced Resilience Fund to secure additional counselling services, provided either face-to-face or online. The Resilience Fund is separate, but would complement, the £650 million catch-up premium, which is likely to be used specifically for academic support by most schools.
We believe that bringing these trained, specialist, children and young people counsellors and psychotherapists into the workforce will help to tackle the growing mental health needs of our young people during this crisis and through the long-term recovery. Access to counselling should be available to all children, not just for schools and families that have the budgets to fund this essential provision. This ask is part of our wider call for the Government to fund sustainable, longer term counselling provision across all secondary schools and colleges in England.