Mental health and well-being of looked-after children Contents

5School provision

A ‘whole school approach’ to mental health and well-being

58.Several submissions spoke of the importance of a “whole school approach” to mental health and well-being within schools. The Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition (CYPMHC), a coalition of charities campaigning together on the mental health and well-being of children and young people, has worked with Public Health England to design a framework for this approach. It said:

There is evidence that suggests that a whole school approach is important as it ensures that mental health and well-being is embedded within the culture and processes of the school, and also ensures that they work with partners in health, the voluntary sector etc. to provide mental health support for those most in need.76

59.The Government’s Future in Mind report also referred to the development of “whole school approaches” and cited Personal, Social, Health and Economic education (PSHE), counselling services and “work on character and resilience” as crucial aspects of this approach.77 Future in Mind recommended that all schools should have in place a “specific individual responsible for mental health in schools”. This person would be able to provide a link to medical expertise and “make effective referrals”.78 This recommendation is reflected in the Government’s current ‘Mental Health Services and Schools Link Pilots Scheme’. This £3 million pilot will train a single point of contact in 255 schools who will be responsible for developing relationships with local CAMHS. This role is not unlike that of a special educational needs coordinator (SENCO), a designated teacher who is responsible for special educational needs policy. Grants of up to £50,000 are available per clinical commissioning group (CCG) taking part in the pilot and each school taking part will also be given £3,500 for training.

Counselling services within schools

60.Numerous pieces of written evidence spoke of the benefits of school based counselling for looked-after children. The charity Place2Be told us:

Outcomes for children, including LAC, following Place2Be interventions demonstrate the effectiveness of school-based mental health services: at a national level, of those children who had severe difficulties before Place2Be’s counselling, 80% showed improvement in well-being according to their parents, and 64% showed an improvement in attitudes to learning according to their teachers.79

61.The Children’s Society and Church of England recommended that “the Government should explore the effectiveness of making school-based counselling a statutory provision as is the case in Wales and Northern Ireland.”.80 However the National Association of Independent Schools and Non-Maintained Special Schools (NASS) shed some doubt on the effectiveness of on-site counselling in schools:

Whilst this is helpful for the individual children attending that service – as they get access to the support they need - it can mean that areas of specialism develop outside of clinical commissioning groups or the local authority with no clear route to feed back.81

62.Professor Fonagy told us that recommending “blanket counselling” as a solution to “substantive mental health disorders” was not advisable.82 He stated that counselling was not evidence-based and that looked-after children required more tailored treatment.

63.School based counsellors should be available to identify early potential problems and signpost children and young people with more acute mental health difficulties to specialist care. Schools have a clear role in teaching about mental health and well-being, and should work with partners in health and local authorities to direct students to further support.

64. The interface between schools and health services needs to be strengthened to ensure that teachers and schools are better equipped to identify, assess and support children and young people with mental health difficulties. However, schools must not be relied on to provide specialist care and treatment. We recommend that, if successful, the current schools link pilot be extended across all clinical commissioning groups with funding for all schools to train a mental health coordinator.

76 The Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition (MHW 11) para 10.2

79 Place2Be (MHW 65) para 15

80 The Children’s Society and Church of England (MHW 68) para 5.2

81 National Association of Independent Schools and Non-Maintained Special Schools (MHW 8) para 14

82 Q88

© Parliamentary copyright 2015

Prepared 27 April 2016