Government Launches Mental Health Action Group – Helen Clark Writes

10 March 2021

Government Ministers have held a first meeting of the new ‘Mental Health Action Group’ as children return to school from lockdown.

The meeting was chaired by Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson and attended by Mental Health Minster, Nadine Dorries; Children’s Minster, Vicky Ford and Universities Minster, Michelle Donnellan. Youth Mental Health Ambassador, Alex George and representatives from Public Health England and some mental health voluntary organisations also attended.

Gavin Williamson said that the intention was to ‘support staff and students’ in their return to school.

Items discussed included:

  • How best to response to mental health issues of greatest concern to include an increase in eating disorders and self harm among children and young people
  • How to help education staff manage their own wellbeing
  • Boosting support available to children and young people as they move between schools and year groups
  • Ways in which schools and colleges can target funding and recovery support to ensure that it reaches pupils most in need of it
  • How to make wellbeing a core part of the school curriculum
  • A consideration of early years settings and development
  • University support arrangements
  • A consideration of sector-wide wellbeing and mental health training opportunities
  • Assessing available evidence to identify where expansion is needed and how to improve existing sources of support

The Secretary of State announced an intention to increase the number of Mental Health Support Teams from an existing 59 to a potential 400 by 2023; also that the Government has earmarked £79 million for children and young people’s mental health support.

We have long called for a cross governmental approach to mental health policy for children and young people and it seems as if that message is being heard!

However, the Action Group’s programme must be accompanied by clear arrangements for full report-back and public scrutiny so that we can assess progress on what will otherwise resemble a wish list.

What is needed is a full Statement in the House of Commons, followed by a national press conference so that questions can be asked about how Ministers propose to turn talking shops into results for children, their families and those who work professionally with them.

The Government should welcome the opportunity to share achievements and shortcomings in matters of mental health – just as it does in all other policy areas.

A Statement in the House of Commons is a priority – and is long overdue!

Helen Clark, Lead Author for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on a Fit and Healthy Childhood