Mental Health Education in Schools DebateFull Debate: Read Full Debate
Nick GibbMain Page: Nick Gibb (Conservative - Bognor Regis and Littlehampton)
Department Debates - View all Nick Gibb's debates with the Department for Education
The right hon. Gentleman spoke eloquently about the need for better mental health provision for teachers throughout our country, but I point out to him, as part of the litany of despair, that a third of teachers who have trained since 2011, on this Government’s watch, have already left the profession. We must deal with these issues if we are to have a future cadre of teachers who are adequately trained in mental health education.
On the upside, there are things that we can do. We could invest in CAMHS early interventions by increasing the proportion of mental health budgets spent on support for children and young people. In order to protect service, we could also ring-fence mental health budgets and ensure that funding reaches the frontlines. We know that school counselling is an effective early intervention; Labour have committed to ensuring that access to counselling services is available for all pupils in secondary schools.
Early intervention is much cheaper to deliver, as has been pointed out. The Department of Health estimates that a targeted therapeutic intervention delivered in school costs about £229, but derives an average lifetime benefit of £72,525. That is a cost-benefit ratio of 32:1. Of children and young people who had school counselling in Wales in 2014, 85% did not need any onward referral to children and adolescent mental health services.
The sad fact is that the Government’s plans for school budgets will result in further cuts to school counselling and wellbeing services. Labour has said that it will fund and ensure that every secondary school in England and Wales offers counselling. This Government’s sticking-plaster approach to our children’s mental health has not been, is not and will not be good enough. I urge the Minister to look closely at the recommendations of the first joint report of the Education and Health Committees, “Children and young people’s mental health—the role of education”.
Teachers are not mental health professionals, but they are the frontline professionals in daily contact with our children and young people, and are often the first to spot the signs of mental ill health. They are also overworked, underpaid and under-resourced, so adding an additional responsibility to their workload without the necessary training and investment will only deepen our teacher recruitment and retention crisis. Our schools need an honest approach from the Government that acknowledges the £2.8billion real-terms cuts in school budgets since 2015.
We must act now and give our children the knowledge and confidence to take charge of their own mental health. If we do not, we will never be able to relieve the huge strain on our NHS, CAMHS, social services and teachers. The Prime Minister must make good her pledge and act on children and young people’s mental health. If the Government believe in parity of mental and physical health, they will ensure not only that age- appropriate mental health education is available for children in our schools from primary school upwards, but that our schools are properly funded with the resources to deliver that.
Will the report also consider transition from child services to adult services? Transition is a crucial time: young people who may previously have received services often fall through the gaps and do not get the continuation of care that they need.
I am sorry to intervene on the Minister so late in his winding-up speech, but may I ask him to give the House an assurance that the very complex roll-out of all these new schemes will be properly co-ordinated, so that delivery throughout the system is even? It is often difficult to see that happening when new schemes are introduced, so I will be grateful if the Minister ensures it does this time.
I thank those who initiated this petition, because this has been an important, timely and high-level debate on this subject. Right hon. and hon. Members have made powerful contributions today, and I pay particular tribute to the hon. Member for Halesowen and Rowley Regis (James Morris) for his very powerful testimony, not only about his own experience but about how that applies to a very practical approach to how we can do better for our young people and for our society in addressing this issue.
I appreciate the length of the Minister’s reply and the response that he gave to the variety of issues that were raised. There is a huge amount of cross-party consensus that we need to do things better and we need to see change. I will look out for the Green Paper and the proposals in it, and I know that the excellent organisations that initiated this debate—HeaducationUK and others—and the right hon. and hon. Members in Westminster Hall today will also look out for the Green Paper, to ensure that we get this matter right, that we address the issues, that we improve our education offer, that we remove the stigma around talking about mental health, and that we adopt a cross-sectoral approach, so that our health service is there to provide the professional support that must be available and that will match our provision within the education sector.
Personally, I would like to see a really bold message coming from the Government in the Green Paper that this issue has parity of esteem, and that we do not only talk about supporting better mental health within our education system but that the Government will take the steps to ensure that it is a priority and is delivered. All right hon. and hon. Members here today will hold the Government to account on that issue.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered e-petition 176555 relating to mental health education in schools.