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Pupil student secondary boy stress sitting outdoors

In response to the worsening mental health situation for children and young people in England, Citizens UK, the largest civil society federation across the UK, has allied with the NASUWT, BACP, NAHT, NCPS and Parentkind to campaign for a fair, workable and long-term solution.

We ask the next government to legislate for the statutory provision of counselling by specialist children and young people counsellors or psychotherapists to address the mental health needs of pupils in primary and secondary schools and FE colleges in England, or wherever a child is educated within the state system. 

We know from our work with BACP (British Society for Counselling and Psychotherapy) that there is a workforce with the skills, experience and capacity to take on these professional roles.

Even before COVID, children and young people were suffering from diagnosable mental health conditions - anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. Their mental health conditions worsen through extended wait times for treatment in overstretched NHS services across England. 

The mental health of children and young people has deteriorated further over the last few years. Now, one in five children and young people have a diagnosable mental health condition. Their mental health is made worse by the social determinants that condition their lives.

In 2023 Parentkind published The National Parent Survey of more than 5000 parents, which revealed:

  • 4 in 10 parents report their primary school-age child has experienced anxiety, rising to almost half for parents of secondary school-age children.
  • 1 in 7 parents say their primary school-age child has experienced depression, rising to 1 in 6 for parents of secondary school-age children.
The many children and young people who need more than pastoral care and mental health awareness support but do not satisfy a referral to specialist services are caught in the middle with little or no therapeutic provision available to them. We call this group of children and young people the “missing middle”. 

In the UK, England is the only country where counselling is not government-funded. Here, schools and colleges struggle to pay for in-house, sessional or commissioned service provision from their overstretched budgets or grants from local charities. 

We know anxiety and depression are amongst the most common mental health issues for children and young people. Early intervention by trained counsellors embedded in schools and colleges would have clear benefits. Children and young people would be more able to manage their mental health issues and challenges, and savings on CAMHS would be substantial.

That is why we ask all political parties to commit to providing government-funded counselling in all schools and Further Education colleges in England. 

Dr Patrick Roach, General Secretary of NASUWT, said, “We believe there are huge benefits for young people, school staff and the wider health service in having access to school-based counsellors. It is clear that the need for trained support is there and is growing. Investment in school-based counsellors and early intervention could help to prevent many young people reaching crisis point, remove barriers to learning, and contribute to tackling the problem of long-term absenteeism.”

Revd Dr Simon Mason, Citizens UK, said: “Children and young people deserve the best education we can provide. Anything that gets in the way is a problem that we need to find a solution for. That is why the worsening mental health of children and young people needs tackling proactively, even as early as primary school with qualified counsellors trained to work with children and young people.”

Visit our School Based Counsellors campaign page for more details


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