Childhood is supposed to be a happy time, filled with cherished memories and laughter. However, for too many it can also be a very difficult time. Headteachers say that there are numerous pressing challenges facing our education system and many come from outside of the classroom. Mental health is among the biggest.
According to recent data, it is estimated that one in five children between the ages of 7 to 16 have a probable mental health disorder. Early intervention is crucial. Research tells us that half of all lifetime mental health disorders start before the age of 14. Stepping in as soon as warning signs start to show can often help to prevent conditions from becoming more severe.
Our Bill would place a dedicated qualified mental health practitioner in every school - primary and secondary - giving every child in school access to care and support from the moment they start needing it.
Currently help that is available is stretched thinly across many local primary and secondary schools, which means their valuable skills and service is only available about half a day per week in many schools. Children who are waiting for mental health support miss substantial amounts of schooling and this absence has a huge impact on their life chances. We cannot wait to tackle this issue.
Our Bill makes clear funding needs to be made available for this proposed statutory duty for all state schools. Using the “polluter pays” principle, Liberal Democrats have proposed funding these mental health practitioners through tripling the digital services tax on our big social media companies, given the harm they have contributed to our children’s mental health.
There is a tidal wave of mental ill health among our children and young people. It is jeopardising their current wellbeing, their education, their prospects, and their long-term health. Professionals from the education sector, mental health sector, and other public services all agree that something more has to be done. Putting a mental health practitioner in every school is an important step in tackling this vital issue.