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Mental health support to be offered in schools in £300m overhaul of services for young people

Children in England will be able to access mental health support at school or college. Credit: PA

Mental health help will be offered in schools as part of a shake up of the treatment of mental illness in young people.

Children in England will be able to access mental health support at school or college under the £300 million government overhaul that will increase support and provide earlier assess to services.

Under the plan, set out in a government green paper to be published on Monday, every school and college in England will be encouraged to appoint a designated "senior lead" that will co-ordinate with existing support services.

The senior leads will be responsible for insuring all pupils have access to pastoral support and that effective policies are in place to tackle bullying and other behaviours which cause mental distress.

They will be backed by the creation of new mental health support teams to improve links between schools and the NHS as well as provide specialist support and treatments in or near schools and colleges.

Under the £300m overhaul of services there would be better improved support links. Credit: Time to Change/Newscast

Over the next five years, ministers say they expect to recruit "several thousand" people to the teams who could be trained to offer cognitive behaviour therapy and other treatments in the classroom.

The government is proposing to provide £215 million over the next three years to fund the teams, with a further £95 million for the training of the senior leads.

Making the announcement on ITV's Peston on Sunday, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said not enough help was going to youngsters and teenagers.

Jeremy Hunt makes the announcement on Peston on Sunday. Credit: Peston on Sunday

"This is an additional commitment of money that we are making to the NHS, because on the steps of Downing Street, Theresa May said that dealing with the burning injustice of poor mental health provisions is one of her top priorities and she has made this happen," Mr Hunt said.

He said it was vital to detect and treat mental health issues early to try and prevent them becoming more serious.

Mr Hunt also said the cost of the overhaul will most likely increase after the first three years.

"It's going to cost £300 million over the next three years, but it will ramp up, and at its full status it will probably be at least £300 million a year," he said.

Other measures proposed in the green paper:

  • Piloting a new maximum four week waiting time for NHS children and young people's mental health services;
  • Ensuring every primary and secondary school in the country is offered mental health awareness training;
  • Commissioning further research into "evidence gaps" across children's mental health issues, including how better to support vulnerable families.

The plans were broadly welcomed by the Children's Commissioner for England Anne Longfield who said they represented a "step change" by the government.

"Schools are the best place to make early intervention work and the best hubs for its expansion," she said.

"The question remains whether the funding that has been announced will be enough. We welcome what there is and will keep an eye on how this might be spent in the long term.

"There is no point having designated mental health leads assessing pupils that come to them, only to find if they need further specialist help, there is still nowhere they can be referred."

Dr Bernadka Dubicka, of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: "One of the biggest problems we see is that children who don't meet thresholds for mental health treatment often fall through the gaps. It is really promising to see the government looking to tackle this."

Shadow health minister Barbara Keeley said: "This announcement leaves many unanswered questions, in particular whether the reported funding will amount to new investment and whether the incentives offered will lead to every school being able to offer proper mental health support to their pupils."