Thousands of children and young people are set to benefit from better support and expert advice in school and college due to a new multi-million package of mental health support designed to help them recover from the challenges of the pandemic.
As part of Mental Health Awareness week, the government has announced more than £17 million to build on mental health support already available in education settings.
Up to 7,800 schools and colleges in England will be offered funding worth £9.5 million to train a senior mental health lead from their staff in the next academic year.
Funding also includes a new £7 million Wellbeing for Education Recovery programme, which provides free expert training, support and resources for staff dealing with children and young people experiencing additional pressures from the last year – including trauma, anxiety, or grief.
The programme will build on the Department for Education’s (DfE) wellbeing for education return.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “I know how difficult the pandemic has been for many children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing, and the next few months will be crucial in supporting their recovery. Getting back into the classroom was a vital step in this process but success in school and college goes beyond an excellent education – as parents we want our children to feel settled, calm and happy while they learn.
“That’s why we’re providing new funding to make experts available for support, advice and early intervention or specialist help, so every young person knows who and where to turn to as we build back better after the pandemic.”
The DfE will also fund an adapted ‘Link’ programme which is designed to improve partnerships between health and education leaders in local areas, raise awareness of mental health concerns and improve referrals to specialist help when needed.
It aims to better align the education and mental health sectors, including charities, to address concerns among leaders and staff about how best to support their pupils and students post-pandemic.
Minister for mental health, Nadine Dorries, said: “Our children and young people have faced unique challenges over the course of this very difficult and unsettling pandemic, and while they have shown great resilience, I recognise the need for additional support.
“It is essential that children and young people can access the support they need and this extra funding further cements our commitment to their wellbeing, equipping them with the tools to look after their mental health.”
To support staff mental health, there will be a launch of an education staff wellbeing charter with a cross-sector commitment to protect and promote the wellbeing of all staff working in schools and colleges.
Within the higher education sector, universities minister Michelle Donelan and incoming president of Universities UK (UUK) Professor Steve West will jointly chair a new roundtable on suicide prevention in June. Through this they will develop and support the adoption of the suicide safer universities framework and promote good practice in the sector, helping to make sure students are well supported during their time at university.
Universities minister Michelle Donelan said: “Students and university staff have faced disruption and uncertainty over the past year, and supporting their mental health and wellbeing remains a top priority.
“The Suicide Prevention roundtable with UUK is an important step in our commitment to supporting higher education providers to care for their students experiencing mental health issues, and I am proud to be a part of it. I strongly urge anyone who is struggling with mental health issues to seek help from their local NHS trust, which now provides dedicated, 24-hour support lines, including suicide prevention support.”