The Government announcement of an additional £300,000,000 that’s three hundred MILLION pounds, to help transform mental health services for Children and Young People seems amazing. Now if I won that in the lottery…well, perhaps I wouldn’t be writing this blog. But I haven’t so I am.  It sounds fantastic; three hundred million pounds! It is beyond comprehension, almost, but let’s look a little closer given what it’s meant to help with.

Recently there have been two Green Papers regarding Children’s and Young people’s mental health. The first one was Children and Young People’s Mental Health: The Role of Education (I wrote a couple of pieces about this recently) and now we also have Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision: A Green Paper.  At this point, I need to say that I may have missed something and that perhaps they are indeed linked but there is no reference to either paper within each other (particularly the latter). Surely it would seem to be appropriate that these Green Papers (given that there is a clear crossover in their purposes) would connect it some kind of clear and  obvious way

I don’t want to be negative about either of the Green Papers though, as they do point to significant improvements in focus provision around mental health services for Children and Young People (C&YP) which is great and the announcement of more money is also great, but is it enough?

I wondered just how many children and young people there are in England… 8,200,000 (eight million two hundred thousand give or take). Some basic arithmetic then shows that this huge influx of money equates to [drum roll please]…£36.58 per pupil. Now I can hear the government now saying, “Ah, yes not every pupil will need that ‘provision’”. But here’s the rub, they do. Every pupil should be entitled to a universal provision that will help them begin to cope with the stresses and strains of their ever-increasing pressured childhoods and into adulthood. The panacea for this universal provision is seen as Personal, Social, Health and Economic education (PSHEe). Now those that work in education will recognise that PSHEe is the Cinderella subject in an already crowded curriculum. It’s not statutory and therefore does not, in many cases, have sufficient time given to it within the school year nor is it, again in many cases, taught by specialist teachers it is delivered in ‘tutor’ time or through woeful ‘dropdown days’ that we’re told everyone ‘enjoys’ but there is no assessment for or of learning. Adding, mental health to PSHEe may be viable but let’s also look at what needs to be covered in this topic area:

Drug Education

Relationship and Sex Education

Healthy Lifestyles

Citizenship, Democracy and Human Rights

Personal Financial Education

Careers and the world of work

Now there is already brilliant guidance out there on PSHE and what should be covered, that isn’t the point of this article. The point is, that it is already overcrowded and given little status so perhaps ‘hiding’ mental health, emotional literacy and resilience education within PSHEe is highly unlikely to change things effectively?

Perhaps placing it front-and-centre in its own right will make a difference – it will certainly speed up the change in cultural perceptions and reduction of stigma.Perhaps the schools could get the money directly to address their universal provision – train teachers in effective delivery, use programmes like FRIENDS that is an evidence-based programme teaching mindfulness skills and Cognitive Behavioural tools and link that across to other parts of the curriculum? £300 million is a lot so perhaps we can train teachers in MHFA, again a program that has been shown to boost the confidence of people in recognising and responding to the early signs of mental illness and distress? Brilliant! We could also get a school counsellor in as well to help with the ‘low level’ anxiety that doesn’t meet the woefully underfunded Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services across the country! Superb! I’m getting excited at the prospect of transformational, unrecognisable changes!

But hang on, there are 24,300 schools in England, if we just divide that £300 million equally (not even accounting for the size, economic, cultural or any other special circumstances) it come to £12,396.70 per school…not a lot is it?

I have no idea where or how the money will be spent. It will, I’m sure help some and that has got to be a good thing. It will get given to some great charities such as Papyrusand Mind who do brilliant work. Some may even filter through the mechanisms of these charities, Commissioning Groups and Local Authorities to people like myself and Sandra Saint who, like many, are working quietly, to ‘do our bit’ in improving the quality of the education that C&YP receive around PSHEe and mental and emotional wellbeing.

I don’t want to be downhearted, it’s a start. The Green Papers are a start, the money is a start but if we want to change Cinderella from the downtrodden withering soul that she is we need some truly transformational magic that looks at the underlying causes of mental distress and gives us all the tools to help address them.

Thanks for reading.

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