I spoke in a debate on the provision of counselling in schools, backing the proposal and urging ministers to fund better mental health provision for young people.
I explained that every year, as part of my Big Conversation annual community consultation, I meet school students in each of the secondary schools in my constituency. When I first asked them, “What is the most important thing we could be doing to change your lives?” students in each of the schools told me that it was to provide access to mental health support. Over the past 10 years, I have heard the same message year after year.
The former Children’s Commissioner highlighted in 2021 the fact that over 500,000 children and young people were referred to CAMHS in the previous two years. Of those, approximately 3,500 either had their referral closed or were still on the waiting list at the end of the reporting period. The number of A&E attendances by young people aged 18 or under with a recorded diagnosis of a psychiatric condition has tripled since 2010.
Counselling provision is an important part of the solution, but we need to go further and view mental wellbeing in the same way as we view physical wellbeing. Our Healthy Minds and Mental Health Support Team in Sheffield works with local schools to develop a culture of emotional wellbeing among young people, which includes feeling safe and valued, with social connection and structure in their lives. Young people want to be heard and to have staff who know how to listen. That cannot be a bolt-on; it has to be embedded in a school’s culture.
We can’t continue to paper over the cracks in provision – Government must deliver funding to ensure every child and young person can get the support they need.
You can read my full speech here.