Sheffield MP, Louise Haigh has condemned the ‘pitiful’ lack of mental health support for schoolchildren, as new figures reveal this year just seventy-two pence per child was made available in one Northern city from the government’s flagship mental health recovery fund to help staff deal with the growing strain.
In May 2021, the previous Education Secretary announced £17m as “part of the government’s commitment to build back better for every young person” – the new funding was to train “thousands of senior mental health leads for schools and college staff and provide useful resources” but parliamentary questions revealed that amounted to just £53,000 for the Sheffield’s 214 primary and secondary schools this year.
The MP warned Ministers that meagre sum was a “drop in the ocean” for schools in the city.
The shock figures come despite evidence of rocketing mental health issues among schoolchildren, with government figures showing 1-in-6 now have a mental health condition up from 1-in-9 before the pandemic. Over a third cannot access the support they need.
A study by the Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield warned the pandemic had taken a “heavy toll” on children’s health.
One girl explained ‘The lack of mental health support has been the biggest thing that has stopped me and my friends from achieving what we want.’
The mental health funding forms part of the government’s catch-up plan, which led to the resignation of the Prime Minister’s education recover Tsar warning it “risked failing hundreds of thousands of pupils”. Labour have demanded a £15bn Education Recovery Plan including “quality mental health support for every school in the country”.
Commenting Sheffield Heeley MP, Louise Haigh said:
“This pitiful sum is a drop in the ocean and shows just how little value has been placed on children’s recovery from the pandemic.
“Schools are essential support for children, but they are being denied the help they need to tackle this mental health crisis head on.
“This Government’s meagre plan risks failing a generation of schoolchildren, and it’s the most vulnerable in communities nationwide who will pay the price.”
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- The Government’s Wellbeing for Education Recovery Fund was “to further help education staff in local schools and colleges to promote and support the wellbeing and mental health of pupils and students during recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak”. It amounted to £7m in 2021/22 nationwide.
- Just £53,000 was made available to Sheffield in 2021/22 and £63,000 in 2020/21. There are 73,000 school-age children living in Sheffield meaning this mental health recovery funding amount to just 0.72p per child in 2021/22 and 86p per child in 2020/21:
- A report by the Children’s Commissioner in January 2021 found services for children’s mental health: “are still nowhere near meeting the needs of many hundreds of thousands of children. The Children’s Commissioner argues this is because of a lack of ambition in improving children’s mental health services, despite numerous Government announcements on children’s mental health.”
- A large study, undertaken by the NHS in July 2020, found that clinically significant mental health conditions amongst children had risen by 50% compared to three years earlier. A staggering 1 in 6 children now have a probable mental health condition.
- 4% of children accessed mental health services last year in 2019/20. This is equivalent to about 1 in 3 children who needed mental health services:
- More than 190,000 patients under the age of 18 were referred to children and young people’s mental health services between April and June this year – up 134 per cent on the same period last year, according to analysis of official figures by the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
- Labour’s Children’s Recovery Plan would deliver catch up support for school pupils, including:
- Small group tutoring for all who need it
- Breakfast clubs and activities for every child
- Quality mental health support for children in every school
- Continued professional development for teachers to support pupils to catch up on lost learning, and
- Targeted extra investment from early years to further education to support young people who struggled most with learning in lockdown
- Speaking on the Today Programme Sir Kevan Collins, former education recovery commissioner warned that the “educational legacy of Covid could be growing inequality”, stating that a “comprehensive, robust and long-term plan” is needed to tackle this.