£300m mental health initiative for schools is inadequate, says Labour

£300m mental health initiative for schools is inadequate, says Labour

Shadow health secretary says three-year commitment fails to deliver promised parity of esteem with physical health.

A government commitment to spend an extra £300m over the next three years on improving mental health support for school pupils has been dismissed as inadequate by Labour.

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said the Conservatives were “failing to deliver parity of esteem” between mental and physical health, as promised, and that their proposals did not amount to “meaningful action”.

Labour is committed to ring fencing funding for child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) and ensuring there is a counselling service in every secondary school.

The government is publishing a green paper on children’s mental health on Monday, but some of the key proposals in the document were unveiled over the weekend. They include incentivising every school and college in England to have a senior lead for mental health, creating new mental health support teams to liaise between schools and the NHS, and piloting a maximum four-week waiting time for CAMHS in some areas.

He also expressed concern that the NHS could end up raising what he described as the “already unacceptable threshold” for accessing CAMHS to meet the four-week target.

Luciana Berger, a former shadow minister for mental health, said she was particularly angry to learn that the new mental health support teams for schools, including therapists providing mainly cognitive behavioural therapy, were being phased in slowly and it was expected that by 2022-23 only a fifth of England would be covered.

In a series of critical tweets, she said: “We could, as a country, actually make the greatest difference by focusing on prevention and minimise the factors that lead our children to experience mental ill health – neglect, abuse, childhood trauma, poverty, domestic violence, bullying, insecure housing.

“We’ve lost countless services in our communities which make a difference to keeping young people well – youth services, leisure and recreation, the early integration grant, support for new mums and dads. The list is very long.”

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