Policy piece

Inquiry into children and young people’s mental health

4th May 2017

Pupils should have more time for wellbeing, say MPs, following an inquiry into children and young people’s mental health.

As part of a joint inquiry into children and young people’s mental health, the Health and Education Committees have found that financial pressures are restricting the provision of mental health services in schools and colleges. Adding that the next Government must review the effect of the budget reductions in the education sector. They also found that schools and colleges struggle to provide adequate time and resource for pupils’ well-being.

The Committees say an increasing number of education providers are having to cut back on mental health services, such as in-school counsellors, despite a growing prevalence of mental ill health among children and young people.

The report notes that half of all cases of mental illness in adult life start before the age of 15 and that one in 10 children aged between 5 and 16 have had a diagnosed mental disorder.

Inquiry findings

The Committees say that, schools and colleges have a frontline role in promoting and protecting children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing but, the Government also has a significant part to play.

Both Committees welcome the Government’s commitment to make personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) mandatory in schools and colleges but say that the promotion of wellbeing cannot be confined to PSHE lessons.

The Committees support the need for a whole school approach that embeds the promotion of wellbeing throughout school and college culture, including changes within the curriculum and the training and continuing professional development of teachers and support staff.

The Committees recommend that this approach to mental health and wellbeing should be properly taken into account and reflected in Ofsted’s inspection regime and reporting.

They say that strong partnerships between the education sector and mental health services improve the provision of care for children’s mental health and wellbeing.

However, during their inquiry, the Committees saw evidence of significant variation in how well schools, colleges and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) work together and that such partnerships simply do not exist in many local areas.

The Committees are calling on the Government to commit sufficient resource to ensure effective services are established in all parts of the country.

Social media and mental health

Whilst there are benefits of social media, the Committees say that excessive social media use is also associated with sleep deprivation and depression in children and young people. Adding that, social media providers must not be allowed to duck their responsibilities for harmful content, which affects children and young people’s online safety and wellbeing.

Chairs’ comments

Chair of the House of Commons Health Committee, Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, said, ‘With half of all mental illness starting before the age of 15, and three quarters by aged 18, the Government and educators must ensure sufficient time is allowed for activities in schools and colleges that develop the life-long skills children and young people need to support their wellbeing.

Neil Carmichael MP, Chair of the House of Commons Education Committee, said, ‘Schools and colleges have a frontline role in tackling mental ill health and promoting wellbeing among children and young people. We have heard, however, that financial pressures are restricting their ability to run services. Schools and colleges must be well-resourced to provide on-site support and make referrals where necessary.’

In March, research from the university of Portsmouth said that Children’s mental health approaches need updating.

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