Children's mental health green paper 'to feature joint-working duty'

By Sophie Eminson and Neil Puffett

| 24 October 2017

Expectations could be placed on education and health services to work together in both schools and health settings as part of efforts to boost support for young people facing mental health difficulties, it has emerged.

The government will look to strengthen links between schools and children's mental health services. Picture: Newscast Online

The plan is one of a number of ideas under consideration for a government green paper on the future of children's mental health services, set out by a senior health official at a conference held in London. 

Prathiba Chitsabesan, associate national clinical director for children and young people's mental health at NHS England, revealed that as part of efforts to ensure "the right treatment is provided at the right time in the right place" expectations could be placed on education and health services to collaborate in both schools and mental health settings.

Prime Minister Theresa May has previously said government is looking to involve schools more in tackling mental health, including strengthening links between teachers and their local child and adolescent mental health services. 

It has also been reported that ministers have been considering plans to station NHS professionals in secondary schools on a full-time basis.  

The plan to boost joint-working arrangements is part of one of four themes being considered as the basis of the green paper.

Chitsabesan said that the themes are:

  • Preventing mental illness
  • Raising awareness among young people and adults to seek help
  • Providing the right treatment at the right time in the right place
  • Supporting children and young people in clinical settings, schools and the wider world

On the theme of preventing mental illness, the government is considering focusing on the role of schools in offering information and support "at the earliest possible point in a collaborative way".

In terms of raising awareness among young people and adults to seek help, officials are keen to increase the confidence of the wider children's workforce and parents in seeking help for children.

A review of "what works" in terms of support available in schools is also being considered.

The government has also today published its response to a joint report of the education and health committees, which contains further detail about its plans.

In terms of co-ordination between health and education services, the government said it agreed with the committee's view that partnerships between schools and children and young people's mental health services are vital to provide the best possible prevention and support.

It said a government pilot, first announced in December 2015, to improve joint working between CAMHS and school settings in 255 schools will form part of its plans going forward.

"The government plans to extend our joint training pilot to improve collaborative working across schools and mental health services to test the sustainability of models of joint working across a larger number of schools," the response states.

"As part of preparing the green paper, the pilot will fit with other proposals on how to improve the timeliness and accessibility of specialist support."

The green paper on children's mental health services is due to be published later this year.

The government has already committed £1.4bn in funding to improve mental health provision for children and young people up to 2020, although there are concerns that clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) are siphoning off this money to backfill cuts or spend on other priorities.

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