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Mental Health Support: Covid-19

Volume 677: debated on Monday 22 June 2020

What steps his Department is taking to support pupils’ mental health during the covid-19 outbreak. (903511)

What steps his Department is taking to ensure that pupils are supported (a) academically and (b) emotionally on their return to school after the covid-19 lockdown. (903539)

We have published guidance and resources for parents and schools on how to support children’s mental wellbeing while they are not at school. We have given schools the flexibility to have a face-to-face check-up with all pupils during the summer term. Returning to school is the most vital factor in the wellbeing of pupils and educational progress. We have recently produced new training for teachers on how to teach about mental health issues as pupils go back to school.

Covid-19 has had a significant impact on the provision of child and adolescent mental health services throughout the UK. Will the Secretary of State please confirm what is happening right now to reduce the backlog?

My hon. Friend champions the mental wellbeing of young people and all his constituents often and regularly. I would be happy to meet him to discuss how we can do more to help. We are working closely with both Public Health England and NHS England on how we can help and support them to reduce CAMHS waiting times. In addition, I will raise the issue with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.

Calls to Childline are rising, and YoungMinds has found that around four in five children with pre-existing mental health problems have had those problems worsened in this crisis, yet referrals to CAMHS have been down by as much as 50% in some areas. How do the Government plan to deal with the inevitable rise in demand for mental health services, as identified by teachers in Portsmouth?

There is a great deal of cross-party consensus on this issue and how important it is. Often, people approach schools as almost the first port of call—the easiest way to access services. It is about how we integrate health services with educational services ever more closely. We have put in an additional £5 million-worth of mental health support, but we do recognise that in lot of areas we can make sure that interventions come earlier so it does not get to crisis point.

The first weeks in school are really important for helping four-year-old children settle in and form positive relationships. University College London’s study of the Government’s pilot of the reception baseline assessment last year found that the test caused anxiety, stress and a sense of failure in many children—and we are talking about four-year-olds here. Will the Government do the right thing and abandon their plans to bring in reception baseline assessments?