Blog - Children's Mental Health Week

As Children’s Mental Health Week draws to a close, our Chief Executive Kevin Kibble looks ahead to key policy opportunities for children’s mental health in the rest of 2019 and argues for a child-centred approach. 

The rest of 2019 will bring major shifts in approaches to children’s mental health in England and Wales.

The second half of the year will see pilots of regional mental health support teams in ‘trailblazer areas’, as part of the proposals put forward in the government’s Green Paper Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health. These teams will be established within local clinical commissioning groups, with each team supporting up to 8,000 children and young people in up to 20 schools and colleges. Each school will be required to have a designated mental health lead. The implementation of the Green Paper proposals is an opportunity to make progress in supporting schools to understand the social, emotional and wellbeing needs of their pupils.

The new NHS Long Term Plan, published in January, builds on the Green Paper’s proposals, with a promise that funding for children and young people’s mental health services will grow faster than both overall NHS funding and total mental health spending. The new regional mental health support teams will be supervised by NHS staff, and the teams will receive special training around supporting young people more likely to face mental health issues.

The Long Term Plan also promises a greater focus on prevention and early intervention, including better information sharing, and the use of digital interventions to minimise the need for acute mental health services. The Boxall Profile, our unique online assessment tool enabling teachers to develop a precise and accurate understanding of individual children’s social and emotional competencies, could be a cornerstone of this digital prevention strategy.

In Wales, the Government has committed to a whole-school approach to mental health wellbeing, with a Joint Ministerial Task Force working to ensure its implementation. The shift to an emphasis on mental health and wellbeing at all levels of a school environment will create many new opportunities to support children with social, emotional, and behavioural difficulties.

To support this ambition, the Welsh Government has announced £7.1 million of new funding for children and young people’s mental health, to be spread across diverse interventions like youth services, early intervention, and in-school support. After our successful event in the Welsh Assembly last year, where Education Secretary Kirsty Williams expressed her wholehearted support for in-school nurturing interventions, I hope that the rest of 2019 will see the growth of nurture groups and nurturing schools across Wales.

These strategic shifts demonstrate a welcome and growing acceptance of whole-school approaches to mental health and wellbeing throughout the UK. At nurtureuk, we have always believed that a whole-school approach is crucial to enabling schools to improve educational outcomes for pupils while also supporting their long-term character development and emotional growth. I’m delighted to see a national commitment to this ethos.

However, all too often, strategies focus too much on service providers and schools, forgetting that the impact on children is what matters in the end. While services are always playing catch-up to deliver measured outcomes, and there are significant organisational challenges to embedding new approaches, these should always be seen as secondary to an ambitious vision for a more resilient cohort of young people. As our national conversation moves towards a deeper understanding of the complex needs of our young people and what works to support them, our methods and measurements for driving change should also shift to put children and their families at the centre of mental health policy.