I share the widespread concern about the impact of coronavirus on young people’s mental health. Specifically, being separated from their peers for such a long period presents serious dangers to mental health, as well as hampering the social development of our young people.
I therefore greatly welcome the reopening of schools and colleges. The Wellbeing for Education Return programme will provide an effective platform to help those children and staff who require support as they make their return to school. The £8 million programme will help staff working in schools and colleges to respond to the extra pressures some children and young people may be experiencing as a result of the pandemic, particularly regarding their mental health. The programme has been formulated with the input from health partners, mental health experts, local authorities, along with schools and colleges.
The Department is also inviting educational psychologists to express an interest through their local authorities in providing temporary support for children and young people returning to educational settings in September 2020. This action serves in addition to the current commitment to invest at least £2.3 billion of extra funding a year into mental health services by 2023-24 through the NHS Long Term Plan. This reflects the Government’s aim to allow for a further 345,000 children and young people to be able to access support through National Health Service funded services or school and college based mental health support teams.
It is vital that mental health services are properly funded. I will therefore continue to monitor this issue closely and continue to call on Ministers to ensure these services are considered in this year’s spending review.