NGN responds to the Green Paper on ‘Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision’

This week the Department for Education and Department for Health jointly published their long-awaited Green Paper, ‘Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision’.

It’s long overdue – we all know the levels of mental health difficulties amongst children and young people are alarmingly high and we hope that the ambitions in the Green Paper will be matched with investment and support across the country.

The proposed new approach in the Green Paper has three elements, and will initially be piloted in ‘trailblazer areas’ (these have yet to be decided):

  1. Every school and college will be incentivised to identify a Designated Senior Lead for Mental Health. This person will provide a link between services and would provide rapid advice, consultation and signposting. 
  2. New Mental Health Support Teams will be created and funded, supervised by NHS children and young people’s mental health staff, to provide specific extra capacity for early intervention and ongoing help.   
  3. There will be a four-week waiting time for access to specialist NHS children and young people’s mental health services.

There are parts of the Green Paper that we think have a lot of potential to help bring the benefits of nurturing interventions to support the mental health and wellbeing of more children and young people.  We are pleased to see the recognition that “a whole school approach, with commitment from senior leadership and supported by external expertise, is essential to the success of a school in tackling mental health”.  This may help more schools to benefit from our National Nurturing Schools Programme, which upskills teachers to embed a nurturing culture that improves the mental health and wellbeing of pupils and staff, helping to develop a happier, more resilient and more successful school community.

However, this is a missed opportunity to make progress in supporting schools to measure the social, emotional and wellbeing needs of their pupils, absolutely essential if we are to understand the needs of our children at the earliest stage and to support them with evidence-based interventions before problems escalate.  

Furthermore, the timetable for action in the Paper is worryingly slow, with the new approach of Designated Senior Leads, Mental Health Support Teams and reduced waiting times expected to be rolled out to only 20-25% of the country by 2023.

Overall, this Green Paper is a step in the right direction but we need to see more details, and, more urgently, schools need to see more support and funding sooner if we are to start to reverse the worrying trends in children and young people’s mental health.

A consultation on the proposals is open until the 2nd March – make sure you have your say direct to the government here.

Please let us know your thoughts at elisa@nurturegroups.org so we can incorporate them into our response as well.