Government confirm plans to recruit hundreds of new mental health workers for schools

Hundreds of new mental health workers will be trained up and introduced to schools from next year to help boost young people’s wellbeing.

Seven universities and colleges will offer education mental health practitioner courses from January under Government plans.

The first teams of trained specialists will begin working at schools and colleges by the end of 2019, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.

The plans for a dedicated mental health workforce have been confirmed following a consultation on the Government’s green paper on young people’s mental wellbeing.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Children and young people must feel supported with their mental health needs and I am determined to keep people healthy, treat their problems quickly and provide services closer to home.

“By creating a dedicated new workforce in schools, which when in post could equate to more than the entire total current child and young person’s mental health NHS workforce, we will support each and every child in fulfilling their potential as we transform mental health services in this country.”

The education mental health practitioners will form support teams to treat children with mild and moderate issues, and ensure those with more severe needs get access to the right treatment within the NHS.

The practitioners will work closely with schools, which will designate staff members as “senior leads” for mental health, as well as a range of other health professionals.

The scheme will initially be rolled out in “trailblazer” locations, but as many as 8,000 additional staff could be supporting schools and colleges across the country in the long-term, DHSC said.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said: “Young people today face different pressures from those of the generations before them and, at times, it can prove difficult to know how to navigate them.

“I want to make sure that when signs of mental illness appear, young people know where they can access appropriate support.

“Teachers already do so much to support their pupils and we want to support them further to improve the important work done between schools and local NHS services to make sure young people can get that help quickly.”

The Government has also committed to piloting a maximum four-week waiting time for access to specialist NHS children and young people’s mental health services following the consultation.

Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s national mental health director, said: “We welcome this announcement which will strengthen the vital link between health and education.

“It represents an important next step forward, and will be one of many needed over the next decade – with children and young people placed firmly at the heart of our plans as we continue to build on the progress made and reach 70,000 more young people each year by 2020/21.”

Sean Duggan, chief executive of the Mental Health Network, said: “What has been confirmed today could be a shot in the arm the system so desperately needs – there are welcome commitments on workforce, waiting times and an all-important strengthening of links between education and health care providers.”

But he warned: “More fundamentally, mental health services are lacking the funding they need. So we look forward to working with the new Secretary of State to put things right through the long term NHS investment.”

Seven higher education institutions in England will offer education mental health practitioner courses from January 2019.

They are: University of Reading, University of Northumbria, Greater Manchester Mental Health CBT Training Centre, King’s College London, University College London, University of Northampton, University of Exeter.

Further details about the application process will be made available in the autumn.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) David Jones / PA Wire.