Call for national mental health support team rollout

By Dan Peters and Ann McGauran | 21 September 2023

A top children’s services director has called for the ‘very highly regarded’ mental health support teams (MHST) model to be rolled out across the country.

The Department of Health and Social Care last month outlined a target of 50% of pupils to have access to MHST support by the end of 2024-25.

President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, John Pearce, told The MJ: ‘Mental health support teams in schools are really positive, but there’s not enough of them.

'We know it’s a model that works and is very highly regarded by schools and lets them support children at an earlier stage, so it should be working towards 100% coverage and not just pockets of schools being able to access that sort of provision.’

Corporate director for development and innovation at charity Barnardo’s, Michelle Lee-Izu, urged the Government to ‘ensure all children have access to a MHST, alongside a counsellor in every school’.

A report by the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition earlier this year said there was ‘no clarification on when full rollout will take place’.

Senior researcher at think-tank Reform, Sebastian Rees, said: ‘Embedding comprehensive mental health support in schools is the right direction of travel.

'However, without clarity over future funding and no roadmap on when the MHST programme will be rolled out to all schools in England, there is a real risk that progress to date will be undermined.

'Further, without a plan to develop joined up, preventative mental health services for young people at a local level, MHSTs will have to continue fighting an uphill battle.’

Founder and chief executive officer of youth mental health charity stem4, Nihara Krause, added: ‘Without the rollout of MHSTs and early access to evidenced-based therapies as a first step we’ll see further waiting lists, more referrals and rejections, and growing levels of mental ill health in this young generation.’

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