Briefing: Mental Health Green Paper Consultation

17 January 2018

At the end of 2017 the government launched its Mental Health Green Paper Consultation. This was jointly published by the Department of Education and the Department of Health. It lays out new proposals and calls for ideas as to how to effectively improve services for young people’s mental health and wellbeing.

The paper doesn’t acknowledge the place of arts and culture (or much of youth and community services) in delivering on prevention or early intervention in this area, so it’s vital that expert colleagues across the country take the opportunity to respond with the evidence and models that they have.

The consultation closes at noon on 2 March 2018. Have your say here:

What is of particular interest to cultural learning?

At the beginning of the document there is a chapter that sets out the key evidence on children’s mental health and wellbeing. This provides some stark but very useful stats about the current picture in England for anyone working in this area. Similarly, the paper flags up some current models of practice such as i-THRIVE, which provides useful reading for colleagues in culture wanting to work in partnership with mental health services.

However, following a worrying trend, the paper does not mention arts and culture at all. As we say above, this omission appears to extend substantially to youth and community provision too (though there are passing mentions to both).

The document does say that ‘whilst the evidence for the effectiveness of peer support is limited at this stage, we are committed to strengthening it through further research’, so if you have any information on this particularly, then it is important that you submit it.

What are the headlines?

  • The main ambition of the Green Paper is for schools and colleges to be placed at the heart of early intervention and prevention, and for better, faster, more joined-up provision to be made available to young people. Interestingly, the paper points out that around half of schools and colleges already have a dedicated lead for mental health, 61% of schools currently offer counselling, and 90% of schools and colleges offer staff training on supporting pupils’ mental health and wellbeing.
  • The paper proposes to incentivise every school and college to identify a Designated Senior Lead for Mental Health to oversee the school’s approach to mental health and wellbeing. In a similar model to that proposed by the recent Careers Strategy, there does not appear to be any underpinning resource for teacher capacity to deliver this, though there are plans to put £95m into training and to use the Teaching and Leadership Innovation Fund to support the development of training packages. In addition, a member of staff in every primary and secondary school will receive mental health awareness training.
  • There are plans to recruit new Mental Health Support Teams, supervised by NHS children and young people’s mental health staff, which will provide specific extra capacity for early intervention and ongoing help. There is a £215m fund for this and the teams will offer a raft of support including cognitive behaviour therapy in the classroom.
  • The government will trial a four week-waiting time for access to specialist NHS children and young people’s mental health services.
  • Guidance on PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education) and RSE (Relationships and Sex Education) will be developed that link to and strengthen education on mental health and wellbeing.
  • Working with the DCMS, the DFE and DoH will look more closely at online and internet safety – particularly the impact of social media on children’s wellbeing.
  • The Green Paper also contains plans to collect better data, and an acknowledgement that one-size will not fit all in every location.

What are the consultation questions?

The consultation asks about the kinds of model that should be tested as part of the trailblazer phase, and asks about the areas that should be involved in the first tranche of pilots (like all other DfE docs of the moment it specifically mentions Opportunity Areas as a possibility).

There are 21 questions in the consultation, but you can skip any that are not pertinent to you. They ask for models of existing practice that work, for evidence and for ideas as to how to disseminate information to parents and carers.

Particular questions that colleagues might want to answer include:

  • Q9: how to include the views of children and young people
  • Q12: how schools and colleges can measure the impact on children and young people
  • Q13: how partnerships can help provide the right support for vulnerable children and young people
  • Q19: examples of and impact of interventions on children with mild to moderate mental health needs.

What can I use to help me to make the case?

The CLA and Place2Be are jointly producing a briefing on cultural learning, health and wellbeing, which cites a number of different sources of evidence and models of practice. This will be available on the CLA website shortly.

Similarly, last year the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Arts in Health and Wellbeing published Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing, which includes great examples, case studies and data.

The National Alliance for Arts in Health and Wellbeing is also a really useful resource.

What concerns do others have?

The national charity for youth mental health, Young Minds, has issued this statement that welcomes some of the reforms but clearly states that they do not go far enough to plug current gaps in provision and funding. Young Minds has a manifesto for the things that it believes are essential in this area. This article in the TES also calls the reforms ‘a drop in the ocean’ and flags that reductions in subjects like arts, music, dance and drama are having a significant knock-on effect on young people’s wellbeing.

The Parliamentary Committees for Health and Education have announced that they will be holding a joint inquiry into the proposals, particularly scrutinising the amount of resource allocated to schools to deliver these reforms. It will be important to ensure evidence from our sector is presented to this inquiry too.

Echoing Mary Beard in her keynote for the 2016 Education Select Committee, we are concerned about the sheer quantity of complex responsibilities that are being heaped upon teachers and schools. They are currently expected to deliver against such diverse agendas and targets – alongside their core business of educating young people –  that it seems impossible that they can be successful in delivering against them all.

Further reading?

The Green Paper builds on a number of existing strategies, including: The Department of Health’s Future in Mind, the Five Year Forward Plan for Mental Health and a joint report from the Health and Education Select Committees in 2017.