We’re rolling out more mental health support teams in schools

Pupils in Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire set to benefit

We’re rolling out more mental health support teams in schools

Even more pupils in the future across Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire will have access to specially trained mental health practitioners thanks to further government funding for support teams in schools.

New funding awarded to Oxford Health means that there will be more professionals supporting children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing in BaNES and Wiltshire.

The newly awarded grant from NHSE means that new staff will be recruited and trained and an additional 8,000 children and young people will receive support from the Mental Health Support Teams.  The new schools will be located in Chippenham and surrounding area, Royal Wootton Bassett and Bath and North East Somerset.

Mental Health Support Teams (MHTs) support children and young people with mild to moderate mental health and emotional wellbeing issues, such as anxiety, behavioural difficulties or low mood.

One in eight young people aged five to 19 in England have a diagnosable mental health condition. It is estimated that half of all mental health problems manifest before the age of 14 years, with 25% enduring mental health conditions being present by the age of 24 years.

At the moment there are two teams in Wiltshire and one in the Bath and North East Somerset area. The teams are located to focus on areas where there is the greatest need in line with the Government’s aim of initially targeting the service at 25% of schools in each area.

In primary schools, the MHSTs work with over 5’s and their parents.  Support is offered for issues such as low level anxiety, low mood and some behavioural difficulties.  They also deliver groups and psychological education on relevant topics, for example transition to secondary school.  In secondary schools they focus on anxiety and low mood support.  They also support schools with promoting good mental wellbeing for all of their pupils.

With COVID-19 still having an impact on everyday life, the teams are expecting more referrals from the schools they work with.  They are able to risk assess circumstances and maintain face-to-face working in school during the pandemic when this is safe to do so, as well as providing digital consultations.

James Fortune, Oxford Health’s Head of Service, explained: “Thanks to a successful bid for the latest wave of Government funding there will be additional resources for BaNES and Wiltshire as well as an additional team for Swindon which is provided by Barnardo’s.  We will be working together closely to share good practice.”

“This means that coverage in Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire is now over the government’s 25% target, and this is excellent news for young people, families and schools.

“We see the MHSTs as a valuable enhancement to the services already available to pupils, families and schools and hope that they will help to improve life chances for children and young people by providing help early on.”

Each MHST consists of seven to eight individuals, made up of educational mental health practitioners (EMHPs), supervisors and support workers.  They can support up to 8,000 children and young people.

Recruitment is underway for the new MHST and, in the coming months, they will develop a range of skills in the teams and undertake training through the University of Exeter.

Wiltshire Council Cabinet member for children, Laura Mayes said: “Now more than ever, and with the complexities that coronavirus has created, young people are under pressure, and we know that stress and social anxiety can cause real problems which affect their wellbeing and mental health”.

“We know there is some excellent support out there already. This Trailblazer programme builds on that and provides even more support, earlier and where young people tell us that they want to receive it – in schools. The programme will help young people to improve their emotional health and wellbeing and get back on track.

Lucy Baker, Director of Planning and Transformational Programmes, for BSW CCG said:“It’s fantastic news that we’ve received even further funding for this important scheme. We know children, young people, their parents, supporters and carers want to be able to access mental health services quickly and easily and the Trailblazer scheme is a significant step forward in enabling that to happen.”

Dr David Soodeen, Clinical Director for the South West Mental Health Clinical Network, said: “The process of growing up can lead to a number of issues which can impact upon the mental health of children and young people – exam stress, behavioural difficulties or friendship issues to name just a few. We believe that if intervention can take place early on, it may help stop worries becoming much bigger mental health issues.

“By putting mental health support teams into schools and colleges, the Trailblazer programme offers a really exciting opportunity to work differently with young people, supporting their mental health needs at an earlier stage and in a familiar setting.

“Improving access to mental health support is a key theme of the NHS Long Term Plan and our congratulations go to everyone involved in securing this funding  – this will make a real difference to the local population and we look forward to working with Oxford Health, Barnardo’s, and colleagues in education, on delivering their plans.”

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Published: 16 December 2020