As our young people face returning to school after lockdown, are we giving them the support they need?
Jemma de Vincenzo looks into this issue.
Imagine a meeting in school, worried that your child is in turmoil, only to be told that unless they’re at risk of harming themselves or others, they’ll wait a very long time to see a specialist. Sadly, in many parts of the country, this is commonplace. I know, because I’ve been the professional sat in that meeting.
There is no doubt that children and young people need earlier and quicker access to specialist mental health support. Currently, only 10% of all mental health funding is spent on young people, despite the fact that many long-term mental health disorders are established by age 14.
In 2017 the government recognised there was a crisis and set about its plans to tackle mental health through schools, with a target date of 2025. The plan involves training a mental health lead in each school to recognise early indications, and specialist support teams from the health service to respond. Yes, funding is provided to train those members of school staff, but funding will not be given to schools to finance this additional demand day to day.
Currently, the level of emotional support a young person receives in school is dependent on a school’s capacity to provide it. In an already pressurised financial climate, schools are expected not only to educate our young people, but provide wrap-around care, extra-curricular learning and manage medical needs. Whilst many teachers strive to provide all they can for young people, just how many strings can one add to a bow?
Our children and young people absolutely need improved and consistent monitoring of emotional well-being within our education system, but schools and the NHS need appropriate levels of funding to do it. That’s why the Liberal Democrats are committed to investing in mental health services for children and young people.