Government unable to back up promises on school mental health support

mental health

The government has pledged to accelerate the roll-out of mental health support teams (MHSTs) for schools – but was unable to provide figures to back up promises the programme will now reach more children.

The NHS Long Term Plan, published in January 2019, said that the MHSTs in schools will be rolled out to between “one-fifth to a quarter” of the country by the end of 2023.

But the government has pledged to bring forward this commitment by at least eight months.  It was announced this week that by April 2023, the number of teams in schools and colleges will grow from 59 currently to 400.

In a press release this week, the government also said nearly three million children in England will be supported by the teams in schools. This would be backed by an extra £79 million to support children’s mental health, the released stated.

When asked for further information, the Department for Health and Social Care said the extra funding will allow them to reach more children and young people than initially thought, and sooner.

But they could not provide figures to show how many more children would be reached.

Teams to provide mental health ‘early intervention’

First commissioned in 2018, the teams provide early intervention on mental health and emotional wellbeing issues in schools and colleges.

They work in a variety of ways, including children being able to text a team and a health professional responding within an hour during the school day.

The DHSC said that in 2018-19, 59 were commissioned and a further 123 were commissioned in 2019-20. Another 104 teams are in the process of being established in 2020-21.

Teams commissioned in other years may have begun training or not be fully operational yet, the government said.

The £79m will also cover expanding community mental health services to 22,500 more children by 2021-22.

The DHSC said this is on top of a commitment made in the NHS Long Term Plan to reach an additional 345,000 children through these services and MHSTs by 2023-24.

The money will also allow 2,000 more children to access eating disorder services.

The £79 million is part of the £500 million announced for mental health support during the 2020 spending review.

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