In-school support services to focus on mental health

15th January 2010 at 00:00
Targeted scheme will quicken response to pupils' problems, say ministers

Schools are set to be turned into health centres as part of government efforts to tackle children's psychological problems.

Services for pupils with mental health issues will be based in primaries and secondaries, and teachers trained to spot symptoms in a bid to improve children's treatment.

Schemes to help "emotional wellbeing" and general health in schools will also be expanded in the spring.

It is hoped the school-based services will speed up progress. Ministers say more support should also mean earlier intervention.

A government review of Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) says the Targeted Mental Health in Schools programme (TaMHS) will be run in clusters of primaries and secondaries in all UK areas from this April at a cost of #163;60 million. A further #163;58 million is being spent on "co-locating" health services in schools and youth centres.

An independent review of children's mental health services last year said quality was "inconsistent". Specialists could not cope with the number of children waiting to receive treatment and basing them in schools might relieve this pressure, according to the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

Last year, 30 areas piloted the school-based health services.

In Birmingham, the new Stockland Green Technology College will have a young people's centre where a local CAMHS team will be based.

In Luton, specialists work at 13 schools running counselling and group work on coping with change.

Dame Jo Williams, chair of the National Advisory Council for Children's Mental Health and Psychological Wellbeing, said: "We know from the young people and professionals we talk to that there are still major challenges ahead, both nationally and locally. These need to be addressed to ensure that all children, young people and families have access to a world-class service that meet their needs."

Kate Fallon, general secretary of the Association of Educational Psychologists, said she hoped the initiative would not lead to a "one size fits all" approach.

"Local educational psychologists would like to be involved in this, but it's important for teachers to realise they don't have to call in experts all the time," she said. "Day to day, these caring adults have got the resources to help. They just need guidance and the confidence to do it."

WHAT CONSTITUTES GOOD PSYCHOLOGICAL SUPPORT?

The DCSF suggests ...

- Small group discussions for those who need additional help with social and emotional skills.

- Teachers to have a suitable space to talk to children and young people one-to-one, with due attention to consent and confidentiality issues.

- Action to be taken to prevent bullying and discrimination.

- Children to have access to advice and information about services to support their wellbeing and feel able to share worries with trusted adults without the fear of stigma.

- Children to have opportunities for play, leisure and personal development opportunities in a range of structured and unstructured settings.

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