Petition demands that all pupils in Scotland have access to counsellors, amid fears of a deepening mental health crisis

Call for mental health counsellors in every school

A petition calling for all pupils to have access to trained counsellors in their schools by 2022 has been submitted to the Scottish Parliament.

More than 700 signatories have already backed the petition from Joanne Waddell, a parent and volunteer counsellor for the charity Place2Be, who fears there is a “deepening crisis” in children’s mental health in Scotland.

Supporters say that Scotland has limited counsellors with specific training in supporting children and young people, and that school-based counselling is available only to a small minority.

Ms Waddell said: “My own experience showed how powerful in-school counselling can be for children struggling with their mental health and the challenges of growing up in a 24-hour online world.

“Getting support at an early stage can help to avert children and young people reaching crisis points where costly and lengthy interventions might be needed. This service should be available in all schools and be provided for under national health policy, not something that schools have to provide through their hard-pressed education budgets.”

Teachers ‘can’t give pupils the time they need’

One primary teacher in the north-east of Scotland who supports the petition, and asked not to be named, said: “I can really see the value of having school-based counsellors.

“I have experienced children with mental health problems becoming disruptive in class because they are unable to fully understand or communicate how they are feeling. Often, just being able to talk this through allowed them to re-engage with their learning.

“Unfortunately, as a teacher with whole-class responsibility, I am not always able to give the time I know that child needs. I feel a service such as school-based counselling would be helpful not only to individuals but also their peers.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “This petition is an opportunity for the Scottish government to recognise that young people’s mental health is still not being treated with the seriousness it deserves.

“The lives and wellbeing of countless young Scots are counting on a seismic shift in government policy.”

A Scottish government spokesman said: “We want every child and young person to have appropriate access to emotional and mental well-being support in school – our ambitious mental health strategy, launched last year, sets out clearly how we can improve early intervention, and ensure better access to services. The very first action commits us to a national review of counselling services in schools. We expect the results of thereview to inform any future work on school counsellors.”

He added: “Education authorities and all those working in our schools already have a responsibility to support and develop the mental wellbeing of pupils, with decisions on how to provide that support taken on the basis of local circumstances and needs. Some will provide access to school based counselling. Others will utilise the skills of pastoral care staff and liaise with the educational psychological services and  health services for specialist support when required.”


Link to TES article here 

New £5m taskforce to improve child mental health care

Help written in notebookThe new £5m taskforce will aim to reshape and improve child and adolescent mental health services

The incoming health secretary has set up a £5m taskforce to reshape and improve child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).

Jeane Freeman condemned the existing system for referring children and young people for specialist mental health treatment.

The announcement follows publication of a report on “rejected referrals”.

An audit was announced last year after NHS figures showed thousands of referrals were being rejected.

A rejected referral occurs when CAMHS is assessed as inappropriate for the child or young person.

During the audit period in February, one in five referrals was rejected across all health boards.

New Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said the current system was "completely unacceptable"New Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said the current system was “completely unacceptable”
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It was found that decisions usually happened quickly, with most made on the basis of paper referrals rather than face-to-face assessments.

Further research gathered from seven health boards found two-thirds of their 285 rejected referrals included “signposting” to other services.


However there was a disparity between this and the views of children, young people and their families.

Of the 253 people who participated in an online survey of their experiences, only 42% felt they were signposted.

Meanwhile some reported signposting was “generic, unhelpful and often points to resources they have already explored”.

Some young people whose referral has been rejected reported a belief that they will not be seen by CAMHS unless they are suicidal or at immediate risk of harm.

The report recommended further research into the CAMHS system as a whole, work to close the gap in provision where it is not the most appropriate service, immediate changes to its assessment procedures, and ongoing data collection around rejected referrals.

Ms Freeman said: “Demand on mental health services is growing but far too many young people are being turned away from help or waiting too long to be seen.

“This report finds that, while CAMHS may not be the right path for some of those referred, young people are being rejected from treatment without proper explanation or being directed to more appropriate care.

“That is completely unacceptable.

“I am accepting the recommendations in this report and I am determined that our mental health service will be re-founded on the need to empathise, engage and explain how to get help to often very vulnerable young people.”

Mental health expert Dr Dame Denise Coia has been appointed to lead the taskforce, with initial recommendations for action expected over the summer.



Link to BBC article here 

Renfrewshire SNP councillors welcome Youth Commission to research services for young people

Renfrewshire SNP councillors welcome Youth Commission to research services for young people

A team of young people are aiming to improve mental health services by leading a study commissioned by the Scottish Government as part of a 10 year Mental Health Strategy launched last year.In a partnership between the Scottish Government, Young Scot and the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH), 22 members of the Youth Commission on Mental Health Services will begin work this week in an effort to reshape the support available.

The Youth Commission will work together to develop recommendations for ministers and service providers on how child and adolescent mental health services can be improved.

Mental health is a key theme of the Scottish Governments Year of Young People 2018.

Renfrewshire Council’s Convener of Education and Children’s Services Cllr Jim Paterson has welcomed this progress, he said: “I am pleased to see that this Commission will begin work this week. This is the Year of Young People 2018 in Scotland and it is extremely encouraging to know that this study will give young people the chance to shape and develop their own strategies and ideas on the best ways to improve mental health services for them.”

“This commission gives an opportunity to deliver real change, based on evidence and experience, and create a society and health service that better meets the mental and physical health needs of our children and young people.”

“Here in Renfrewshire, the SNP fully understand that young people should be involved in decisions that affect them. I am very proud that Renfrewshire was one of the first local authorities to have a young person put forward a motion to Council which will see young people in Renfrewshire involved in the development of the Personal, Social and Health Education.”

Vice Chair of the Renfrewshire Health and Social Care Integration Joint Board, Cllr Jacqueline Cameron, added: “Improving mental health in young people is a key aim for the SNP group in Renfrewshire Council and it is encouraging to know that future policy can be built around work undertaken by young people themselves.”

“The Scottish Government have been very supportive in the innovative ways that we can improve the mental health needs of our younger generations. This commission is a step forward in improving the mental health of young people in Renfrewshire.”


Link to Renfrewshire 24 hour news here 

Mental health charities call for more youth specialists to be trained

Mental health charities call for more youth specialists to be trained

Schools struggle to get pupils seen by qualified mental health professionals because training for counsellors focuses too much on treating adults, warns the head of a children’s mental health charity.

Patrick Johnson, the director of learning at Place2Be, told a meeting of headteachers, charities and academics in parliament last week that it was “no surprise” there were shortages of qualified staff “given that approximately 90 per cent of formal counselling training courses are for those working in adult mental health, not with children specifically”.

Dean Johnstone, the chief executive of another charity, Minds Ahead, argued for youth mental health work to be “transformed into a career of choice for young graduates”.

Last year, Schools Week revealed that the number of educational psychologists working with schools fell 13 per cent over five years. The number employed by local authorities dropped from 1,990 in 2010 to 1,650 in 2015.

This doesn’t mean insulating young people to some of the inevitable pressures and stresses of school life

According to research by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), young people in some areas can wait up to 18 months to receive the mental health support they need.

Earlier this month, the CQC called on Ofsted to rate schools on how well they responded to the mental health needs of pupils.

According to Julian Astle, the director of creative learning and development at the Royal Society of Arts, schools had to choose between depth — expert provision from a professional — and breadth — where all school staff were trained to support young people presenting with mental health issues.

“In the RSA academies, we are purposefully going for greater breadth with an ongoing programme of training for all staff, non-teaching as well as teaching.”

At the meeting, hosted by the Liberal Democrat MP and former health minister Norman Lamb, the headteacher of Reach Academy Feltham, Ed Vainker, spoke of the “mistaken belief” that schools “are either rigorous, have high expectations and excellent results, or are supportive, nurturing and place mental health at their heart”.

Vainker said that his organisation believed those two elements “can go together and that excellent outcomes for pupils require a warm, nurturing, supportive environment for the pupil and their family”.

Jon Brunskill, a teacher at Reach Feltham, said there was “more that teachers should, and can, do”, but said ultimately the increased challenge “will only be met with a co-ordinated, multiagency approach with the child at the centre”.

David Hall, from the University of Exeter, said there was an “urgent need to lower the level of pressure on schools and children.

“This doesn’t mean insulating young people to some of the inevitable pressures and stresses of school life, but it does mean that these should be kept within tolerable levels.”

Evidence heard at the meeting will form the basis of a “call to arms” report by Minds Ahead and the education think tank LKMco, which will be published “soon”.

“So many of the issues we explore in our research trace their origin back to a youth mental health crisis that has been neglected for too long. Today’s session was an attempt to tackle the underlying issues head-on,” said LKMco director Loic Menzies.

A government consultation on young people’s mental health closed earlier this month. Proposals include £95 million funding for schools to appoint and train designated senior leads for mental health from 2019, and £215 million for new mental health support teams to work between schools and the NHS and treat pupils in the classroom.


Link to Schools Week article here 

Child mental health spending drops

Gordon Edwards
Gordon says he struggled to access CAMHS services but has been diagnosed since he turned 18

Three Scottish NHS boards are spending less on child mental health services than last year despite failing to meet waiting times, the BBC has learned.

The 18-week waiting time standard was met by six of Scotland’s 14 NHS boards in the last quarter.

One of the health boards that cut funding – Grampian – met the target in just a third of cases and had an average wait of 21 weeks.

Tayside and Lothian also reduced the amount spent on child mental health.

Freedom of information

NHS Lothian, which cut funding by the largest amount (£390,000), saw just 57% of child referrals within the 18-week target during the last quarter.

NHS Grampian and NHS Tayside both cut spending by £80,000. Tayside could not provide waiting time figures for the last quarter due to data management changes.

The spending figures come from freedom of information requests made by Dr Richard Simpson, the former MSP and Labour public health spokesman, who is honorary professor of health sciences at the University of Stirling.

He received responses from Scotland’s 11 mainland health boards – three cut spending, one reported no change, another three increased spending by less than inflation and four put up funding by substantially more than last year.

Despite large percentage rises in spending on CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health services) in Ayrshire and Arran (10.57%), Lanarkshire (9.76%), Highland (8.96%) and Forth Valley (7.42%), the overall spending for the 11 mainland NHS boards rose by less than inflation.

Average waits

The Scottish government has set a standard to deliver a maximum wait of 18 weeks from referral to treatment. It wants to deliver this in at least 90% of cases.

The average waits have been rising during 2017 and the percentage seen within the 18-week target has dropped from 82.5% at the end of last year to 73.3% in the three months to September.

Grampian was the worst performer (33.1%), whereas Glasgow and Clyde saw almost all patients within the target time (97.8%).

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Gordon’s story

Gordon Edwards

Gordon from Bathgate in West Lothian said he was assessed three times for CAMHS between the ages of 16 and 18 but was told they could not help him.

He said he was suffering from insomnia, anxiety and hallucinations but was told his problems related to his autism.

Gordon said: “In order to manage the burden on their waiting lists people are just getting shoved to one side and told to find another service for help. It is dangerous.”

When Gordon became 18 he was able to access adult mental health services and has now been proscribed anti-psychotic drugs.

“All I wanted was help and now I have got that my life has improved quite a lot,” he said.

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‘Centrally managed’

Dr Richard Simpson said he was "shocked" by the cuts
Dr Richard Simpson said he was “shocked” by the cuts

Dr Simpson told the BBC he was “shocked” that boards were cutting funding when waiting times targets were not being met.

He said: “The NHS in Scotland is centrally managed and there is no excuse for the government not asking for the figures and then in the annual review of the health boards saying to them ‘this is unacceptable’.

“It is disgraceful that this is allowed to occur.”

Dr Simpson said the government should be imposing themselves on the health boards and “if necessary, ring-fencing the money”.

Kenny Graham
Kenny Graham said all waits were difficult for young people

Kenny Graham, head of education at Falkland House residential school and a spokesman for the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC), said he found the funding cuts “very disappointing”.

“The spending levels are low anyway but to discover a number of health boards are reducing spending despite not meeting agreed targets is worrying,” he said.

Mr Graham said that for children suffering with symptoms such as anxiety, depression, behavioural issues or ADHD any wait would be difficult but waiting times beyond 18 weeks can be “really challenging”.

An NHS Grampian spokeswoman said they were currently recruiting for additional clinical staff.

In the meantime, she said NHS Grampian was focused on seeing the children “requiring urgent and emergency appointments”.

She said the service “regrets that our waiting time continues to fall short” and they are reviewing all options to improve matters.



Link to BBC News article here