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Schools and health services must unite against 'false economy' in children's mental health

Schools and mental health services ‘need to work closely together’ to protect children’s mental health, according to a government report

Schools and mental health services ‘need to work closely together’ to protect children’s mental health, according to a government report.

The Health Committee published Children and young people’s mental health – the role of education on 2 May along with the Education Committee. However, the committees admitted they had not been able to go into as much depth as they hoped with the issue as they have now been dissolved ahead of the general election on 8 June.

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In the report, the committees commended government commitment to make personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) lessons compulsory. They described schools as the ‘front line’ in child mental health and called for stronger mental health training so teachers can spot signs earlier.

Education committee chair Neil Carmichael MP said: ‘Schools and colleges have a front line role in tackling mental ill health and promoting well-being among children and young people. We have heard, however, that financial pressures are restricting their ability to run services. Schools and colleges must be well resourced to provide on-site support and make referrals where necessary.’

The committees recommended greater co-ordination between health and education services, saying that ‘a structured approach to referrals from education providers to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) must be developed across the country’.

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Addressing the links directly, the report said: ‘We have seen cases of strong partnerships between mental health services and education providers, but such links do not exist in many local areas.

‘We recommend that the government should commit resources to establish partnerships with mental health services across all schools and colleges. The variation in access for children and young people to timely assessment and support for mental illness is unacceptable.’

Half of all mental health problems start before the age of 15, according to the report, leading the committees to describe the cutting of services for children and young people as a ‘false economy’.

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In recommendations aimed directly at the education sector, the committees also called for providers to ‘ensure sufficient time is allowed for activities in schools and colleges that develop the life-long skills children and young people need to support their wellbeing’.