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Mental Health Services

Volume 601: debated on Monday 26 October 2015

3. What steps she is taking in the education system to support children and young people with mental health issues. (901764)

4. What assessment she has made of the effect of child and adolescent mental health services on the health, wellbeing and performance of young people in schools and colleges. (901765)

13. What assessment she has made of the effect of child and adolescent mental health services on the health, wellbeing and performance of young people in schools and colleges. (901775)

We have high aspirations for all children and want them to be able to fulfil their potential academically and in terms of their mental wellbeing. This attainment is best supported if they have good mental health, character and resilience.

I am pleased that a new initiative in Macclesfield, Emotionally Healthy Schools, has been established between our local mental health service providers—Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust—Cheshire East Council, and six schools and local community groups, including Just Drop-In, which does incredibly important work in this area. Does my right hon. Friend agree that such local initiatives have a vital role to play in improving mental health outcomes for young people in our communities?

I absolutely do recognise that the partnerships between health and education are vital in getting the right mental health support to children quickly. I welcome the initiatives that have been established in Macclesfield. We believe that the significant investment of £1.4 billion in children and young people’s mental health services that this Government have announced will make a real difference. I am delighted that there are so many questions on children’s mental health in this session today.

A parent of a young girl in Walthamstow suffering from an eating disorder recently wrote to me giving a harrowing account of the struggle to get support for her daughter. She suggested that one of the things that would make a difference would be for child and adolescent mental health services to have a presence directly in schools so that they could intervene earlier. As my hon. Friend the Member for Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin) pointed out, we know from the IFS that real-terms funding for schools is going to be cut for the first time since the 1990s. What can the Secretary of State say directly to my constituent to reassure her that every young person will have access to mental health services directly in their schools so that such situations can be avoided in future?

I agree with the hon. Lady. We all, as constituency MPs, hear these heart-rending stories. I, too, have had parents in my constituency bring to my attention cases of eating disorders among young people. I mentioned the £1.4 billion that the Government have already introduced, a significant sum of which is being spent this year on supporting young people with eating disorders. We are also contributing £1.5 million to a pilot with NHS England to train single points of contact in schools and specialist mental health services so that those services work well together to ensure that schools, which do not necessarily have mental health experts trained in that area, know exactly who to go to and how to get help for their pupils.

The Secretary of State may be aware that Blackpool has the highest proportion in the country of pupils in pupil referral units. This stems partly from poor underlying mental health. What more can the Government do to ensure that each pupil has a single point of contact not just in one school but throughout their education, from age four to whenever they leave, so that we start to tackle this problem?

I have just mentioned the £1.5 million we are contributing to a pilot for single points of contact between schools and specialist mental health services. That pilot will run in 250 schools, with training starting later this term. I should also like to mention that this year, for the first time, the Department for Education included just under £5 million in our voluntary and community sector grants for organisations such as Mind and Place2Be and for putting new resources for parents on the MindEd website.

As someone who has in the past been a council lead member for children and education, I know the importance of children and adolescent mental health services and the educational psychology service in ensuring that teachers and other school staff are able to keep children with challenges in school and learning effectively. The Mental Health Foundation has said that one in 10 children have mental health problems at some point in their school career; that 81% of educational psychologists have seen an increase in demand for their services in the past 12 months; that there is a shortage in services; and that ed psychs are leaving the profession in alarming numbers, possibly owing to the pressure of their workload. How is the Secretary of State ensuring that an adequate number of professional educational psychologists are working in schools? Is she—

Order. We have the thrust of it and are deeply obliged to the hon. Lady, but a degree of truncation would be helpful.

The hon. Lady speaks with great passion on an issue that she obviously cares about greatly. We have commissioned more places with educational psychologists this year than last year. She is absolutely right to say that a lot of this is about making sure that young people stay in education and that there are no barriers to them doing so. I am very happy to write to her with further details.

Colleagues have rightly pointed to the impact of mental health on the children themselves, but children’s mental health problems also impact on the family as a whole. Will the Secretary of State explain what we are doing in that respect?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that when somebody in a family, particularly a younger person, is struck with mental ill health, it affects the whole family. That is why funding through the voluntary and community sector programme and organisations such as Mind and Place2Be, as well as the MindEd website, which provides resources for parents, are important. I strongly encourage any parents who are worried about the mental health of their children to have an early conversation with people in their schools, including headteachers and teachers, so that they can then make the referrals.