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The letter, shared with PoliticsHome, coincides with Children’s Mental Health Week and urges ministers to “commit to long-term, sustainable investment in school-based support” as a matter of priority.

Organised by Place2Be and signed by organisations including Mind, the NSPCC and Royal College of Psychiatrists, the letter says that the government’s current plan to introduce mental health professionals in schools will only reach half of pupils by 2025, and that more must be done to tackle the growing children’s mental health crisis in the UK.

Writing to Victoria Atkins, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, the twenty eight organisations say: “Around half of mental health conditions develop by the age of 14, so supporting children early on is vital. Yet only 8 per cent of NHS mental health spending goes on children’s services.

“The Government’s school-based Mental Health Support Teams will only reach 50 per cent of pupils by 2025.

“Place2Be, alongside other leading organisations, has worked in schools and supported children for decades, providing them with a safe place to be themselves, where they can talk in confidence with a trusted, trained mental health professional.

“This equips them to manage their emotional challenges and feel connected. They are also more likely to stay in education.

“It is not just children who benefit. School-based mental health support relieves pressure on parents, school staff and the NHS and is proven to be cost-effective.”

Other signatories include the Association of Mental Health Providers, SANE and Young Minds.

They have been backed by Robert Buckland, the senior Conservative MP and former Cabinet minister, who this week warned “our current mental health provisions for young people are insufficient and we have been unable to keep up with the rising demand”.

Writing for The House, the MP for South Swindon said the rollout of the Government’s Mental Health Support Teams is “arguably too slow to keep up with the increasing number of mental health issues”.

Buckland has called on ministers to significantly expand the scheme by making sure every primary and secondary school in the country has a qualified mental health professional.

“Every child, no matter where they come from or what school they attend, should be able to access reliable and appropriate mental health treatment,” he said.

This, the senior Tory MP argued, is not only what is needed to tackle “incredibly worrying trends” in children’s mental health nationwide, but at the same time would help reduce “crisis” levels of absence in schools which have a “direct link” to the mental health of pupils. 

“The charity Mind found that seven in ten young people say that they had been absent from school as a result of struggling with mental health. Moreover, only one in four children were able to claim an authorised absence from school when complaining of a mental health-related problem, due to a lack of medical evidence to prove their struggles.

“Not only are these young people struggling with their attendance, they face the risk of unauthorised absence and their families may face fines,” wrote Buckland.

A Government spokesperson told PoliticsHome: “We have a wide range of support in place for young people’s mental wellbeing, including offering senior mental health lead training to all schools and colleges by 2025, and extending coverage of mental health support teams to at least 50% of pupils in England by the end of March 2025.

“We are providing an additional £2.3 billion a year for NHS mental health support to reach an additional 345,000 children by March 2024.”

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