Hand schools £500m of NHS funding to deal with mental health 'crisis', says report

16th May 2016 at 00:03
mental health, tes, IPPR, DfE, Natasha Devon
Half a billion pounds should be funnelled away from the NHS to pay for mental health professionals in every secondary school in the country, according to a report released today

The move would be part of wider efforts to place schools at the heart of mental health services, in an attempt to tackle a growing "crisis" in mental health among young people, the study adds.

The research also calls for Ofsted inspectors to pay closer attention to mental health provision in schools, with just a third of inspection reports making reference to mental health and wellbeing.

The recommendations form part of a report published today by the thinktank IPPR, which calls for every secondary school to be guaranteed access to an expert in mental health.

IPPR research fellow Craig Thorley said that not enough of the government’s new funding in chldren’s mental health was finding its way to where it was needed most.

“Schools are particularly well placed to be the hubs from which early intervention support for pupils with emerging mental health problems can be based,” Mr Thorley said. “But schools must be able to regularly access high-quality specialist support from mental health professionals and counsellors.

“Without these very affordable changes, the life chances of the next generation will continue to be needlessly blighted by mental ill-health.”

The report states that, on average, three children in every classroom have a clinically diagnosable mental health condition, and that 90 per cent of headteachers have reported an increase in such problems over the last five years.

The recommendations come just weeks after the Department for Education “dumped” Natasha Devon as its mental health champion.  

And this month, an survey by charity the Anna Freud Centre found that the vast majority of teachers believed the capacity of NHS child and adolescent mental health services was "very much" a barrier to supporting pupils.

The government has pledged £1.25 billion towards tackling mental health issues among young people until 2020, but IPPR states that money is being used to “fill the gaps” elsewhere in the health service.

Instead, the thinktank calls for the cash to be ringfenced, with £500m allocated from the NHS funding to provide schools with ready access to a mental health professional at least one day a week. 

The DfE said that children's mental health was a "priority" for the government. 

“That’s why we are putting a record £1.4 billion into transforming the mental health support available to young people in every area of the country and are working with NHS England to strengthen the links between schools and mental health services. This will help make sure young people get the mental health support they need more quickly,” a spokesperson said.

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