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Mental Wellbeing (Children)

Volume 598: debated on Monday 20 July 2015

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said in an interview with The Times earlier this month, we want children to do well academically, and their attainment is supported if they have good mental health, character and resilience—something that good schools know well. To support schools, we have funded PSHE Association guidance and lesson plans on mental health, and we have worked with experts to provide advice on good school-based counselling, together with £1.5 million to pilot training to improve joint working across schools and specialist mental health services.

It is worrying to hear more in recent months about young people’s concerns about mental health issues, particularly the growing pressure they feel as a result of social media. I welcome the Government’s “Future in mind” report and its conclusions, but what steps are the Government taking to clarify responsibilities across public services and give schools extra support to ensure that we improve mental health outcomes for young people?

I want first, as a fellow Cheshire Member of Parliament, to add my voice to those who have already expressed their deep shock at the devastating events in Bosley in my hon. Friend’s constituency of Macclesfield on Friday and over the weekend. I am sure that the whole House will want to join me in letting the families know that we are thinking of them.

Our joint working pilots will test single points of contact in child and adolescent mental health services to help schools understand mental health support. To clarify responsibilities, “Future in mind” recommended local transformation plans for every area. To that end, we have worked with NHS England on the guidance—it will go out shortly—which will require clinical commissioning groups to work with health and wellbeing boards, schools, colleges and local authorities to develop a clear and comprehensive offer of mental health support locally.

It is good that the Government are putting forward such measures, but has the Minister seen the report out today suggesting that the No. 1 concern of headteachers is mental health? Has he seen how emergency psychiatric admissions have doubled in only four years? Does he accept that there is a mental health crisis in our schools, and will he resolve to do more if the measures that he has put forward are not effective in the coming months and years?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to raise the profile of this issue. We have to come to terms with the scale of the problem we are facing. I think that we are starting to wake up to that, but more action is required. For example, for the first time we now have a category of mental health for children with special educational needs and disabilities, and the CAMHS taskforce has done a great job in trying to understand how we can get a better level of identification, prevention and whole-service delivery so that children of all ages who, through no fault of their own, suffer from different levels of mental health problems get support when they need it, because the last thing we want is for that to affect not only their education chances, but their chances of having a successful and fulfilling life.