Kirsty Williams, Welsh Education Minister, has today announced an additional £3.75 million of funding for mental health in schools that will include new support for children under the age of 11.
School counselling services currently provide direct support to young people from the age of 11, or Year 6, up to the age of 18. The funding announced today will extend this support to also provide mental and emotional support to children younger than 11.
Around 11,500 young people each year access lower level mental health support, outside specialist NHS provision, in schools and community counselling services.
£450,000 will also go towards supporting mental health and well-being of the school workforce. The Welsh Government is currently developing further proposals on how to deliver that support.
The funding is in addition to £1.25m announced last month, for local authorities to deliver counselling services in schools, taking the total amount of additional support provided to £5m.
Kirsty Williams MS said:
"The coronavirus is inevitably causing additional anxiety for people of all ages, not least children and young people. We must therefore anticipate increased demand for mental health support among younger people.
"We know that by tackling problems early you can stop them escalating. Although serious mental health issues are less prevalent among younger children, we’re extending the support available so that children under 11 can also receive support with their emotional well-being, if they need it.
"Traditional face-to-face counselling is not necessarily appropriate for younger children, who may lack the maturity to explain and understand the issues which concern them. Instead specialist therapies, such as those based on play and working with the wider family are much more effective and we will work with providers to develop these services as part of our wider whole school approach."
Jane Dodds, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, commented:
"We have long called for greater priority and funding to be given to mental health services, especially those for younger people.
"I am proud that we are continuing to deliver on that commitment by securing £5 million of extra funding for mental health provision this year alone.
"We will continue to ensure we do all we can to protect and support the mental and emotional wellbeing of our children and young people."