Triple tax on social media giants to boost mental health in schools 

27 Sep 2023

EMBARGO: For Immediate Release

Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to treble the tax on social media giants to provide a dedicated mental health professional in every school.

The proposal will be debated by Liberal Democrat members today (24 September) at the party’s Autumn Conference in Bournemouth. It forms part of an package of measures for schools and colleges being voted on by members, including extending free school meals to all children in poverty.

Under the party’s plans, the Government would fund a dedicated, qualified mental health professional in each of England’s 22,000 state-funded schools. The money would be raised by trebling the Digital Services Tax, paid by social media companies and search engines, from 2% of a company’s revenues to 6%.

It comes in response to the mental health crisis among children and young people that has been exacerbated by the COVID pandemic. According to NHS data, more than one in six children aged 7-16 had a probable mental disorder in 2022, compared to more than one in nine in 2017.

Surveys show that most parents are worried about their children’s mental health. Many cite the impacts of social media – including the pressure to constantly engage, cyber-bullying, abuse and other harmful content – as a major cause of concern.

Munira Wilson MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Education, Children and Young People, said:

“Young people are facing a mental health emergency, and we need to act now to tackle it.

“Both the pandemic and the rise of social media have done enormous damage to children’s mental health. Conservative Ministers have completely failed to grasp the scale of this crisis. They have neglected young people and let them down again and again.

“Liberal Democrats are calling for a dedicated, qualified mental health professional in every school, so every child and every parent has someone they can turn to for help.”


Notes to Editors

The policy will be debated on Sunday 24th September at Liberal Democrat Conference in Bournemouth, as part of a motion titled “Investing in our children's future”. Full text here.

The Digital Services Tax, introduced in April 2020, is paid by companies that run social media sites, search engines and online marketplaces with revenues of more than £25 million in the UK and more than £500 million worldwide. The Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts that the tax will raise £0.7 billion in 2024-25, so trebling the rate is estimated to raise an extra £1.4 billion a year.

The cost of employing Education Mental Health Practitioners in all 22,000 schools in England is estimated at £620 million a year (plus £115m in Barnett consequentials). The Liberal Democrats are proposing that this is funded by trebling the Digital Services Tax. The surplus additional revenue would be used to fund recruitment and training and to boost other mental health services for children and young people.

The Government is currently rolling out new mental health support teams in schools and colleges. However, a previous LiberalDemocrat analysis found that only half of secondary schools and one-quarter of primary schools will have access to a team by the end of next year when the funding is set to run out.

NHS Digital’s survey of the mental health of children and young people found that in 2022, 18.0% of children aged 7 to 16 had a probable mental disorder, compared to 12.1% in 2017.

2020 survey by YoungMinds found that 67% of parents and carers are concerned about the long-term impact of the Covid pandemic on their child’s mental health.

Parentkind’s 2021 Annual Parent Survey found that:

  • 49% of parents are concerned about the pressure to constantly engage with social media.

  • 37% of parents are concerned about cyber-bullying or online abuse.




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