It must be a matter of priority for all of us that we do everything in our power to ensure our children are happy and healthy. The government share this view and many steps are already being taken towards this goal.
It is incredibly important to protect and support the health of children and young people in our society. The government share this view and many steps are already being taken towards transforming children and young people’s mental health for the better. Since 2015, an additional £1.4 billion has been invested to transform children and young people’s mental health services.
While the coronavirus pandemic poses clear challenges for children and young people's mental health, it is somewhat encouraging that the second annual State of the Nation report finds that children and young people aged five to 24 generally responded with resilience to changes in their lives between March and September 2020. Despite indications of challenges to their mental wellbeing they report stable levels of happiness and only slight reduction in satisfaction with their lives.
The report suggests that returning to school or college is likely to be playing a vital role in improving the mental wellbeing of many pupils, by easing some of the main worries identified in the research: time off from education, being isolated from friends, fewer opportunities to be more physically active and also providing access to pastoral support. As such it is very welcome that schools and colleges have reopened successfully.
An £8 million training programme run by mental health experts has been launched to help improve how schools and colleges respond to the emotional impact of the coronavirus pandemic on both students and staff, by giving them the knowledge and access to resources they need to support children, young people, teachers and parents affected by the pandemic.
Mental Health Support Teams will be rolled out to schools and colleges. These teams will employ new staff who are being recruited and trained specifically for the programme. The first 25 trailblazer sites delivering 59 new teams were announced in December 2018 and a further 57 MHST sites, delivering 123 teams were confirmed in July 2019. The National Health Service is on track to deliver the roll-out of mental health support teams in schools and colleges across 20-25 per cent of areas in England by 2023/24.
In addition, the NHS is on track to deliver new waiting time standards for eating disorder services by April 2021. Four fifths of children and young people with an eating disorder now receive treatment within one week in urgent cases and four weeks in non-urgent cases. Extra investment will enable maintained delivery of the 95 per cent standard beyond 2020/21.
I have worked closely with Beat, spoken to local ambassadors within our community and have raised the importance of young people and children’s mental health in Parliament. Beat provide invaluable support to people, including young people, who suffer from eating disorders.
Looking ahead, the introduction of the new Relationships, Sex and Health Education curriculum will be an important step in improving our children’s overall wellbeing. The curriculum is designed to equip children early-on with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions about their wellbeing, health and relationships, as well as preparing them for adult life in a changing world.