Mental health scheme linking schools and NHS rolled out

Link Programme to be offered to 22,000 schools and colleges over the next four years

Martin George

The Link Programme is being rolled out to all schools following a pilot.

A scheme to help schools and NHS mental health services each better understand how the other works will be rolled out nationally.

The Department for Education said that 1,500 schools and colleges took part in the Link Programme since a pilot was launched in 2015.

Today, it said that from September the scheme will be rolled out to up to 22,000 schools and colleges over a four-year period, backed by £9.3 million of funding.

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A DfE announcement said that the most appropriate member of staff from a school would be able to take part in training alongside mental health specialists.

The aim is to “improve partnerships with professional NHS mental health services, raise awareness of mental health concerns and improve referrals to specialist help when needed”.

The programme aims to deliver just under 1,000 training sessions across England involving two whole-day workshops for up to 20 schools at a time, encouraging collaborative work so children do not fall between the cracks or experience poor transition between services.

Education secretary Damian Hinds said that teachers “are not, and should not, be mental health professionals”.

He added: “That’s why this new training is important, by bringing school and college staff into the same room as NHS professionals and encouraging them to work together, sharing their expertise and making sure they have the information they need so that more pupils get the right help at the right time.”

Jane Caro, the Mental Health Foundation’s programme lead for families, children and young people, welcomed the expansion “because it is incredibly important to have joined-up support for children and young people’s mental health”.

She added: “It can be very difficult for children and young people who are struggling, because things have to be quite serious before the NHS will help them.

"When vulnerable young people fall through gaps in support, it can lead to their mental health problems getting much worse.”

The government’s wider strategy to improve young people’s mental health has previously come under fire from MPs for being too “unambitious”.

The House of Commons Education Select Committee last year said its plan did not fully take into account the need for preventative action in the early years, and the role of exam pressure had not been addressed.

And the children’s charity Barnado’s last year said the government was "sleepwalking" into a children's mental health crisis because its plans to train new mental health workers would reach just 25 per cent of the country over the following four years.

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Martin George

Martin George

Martin George is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @geomr

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