UNISON welcomes the recognition that children and young people require support for their mental wellbeing. We are concerned that the government is too focused on being seen to do something quickly rather than investing in the range of services that would actually make a difference. Supporting pupils’ mental wellbeing requires a much more rounded approach with investment in, and co-ordination of, a range of programmes and staff across services to support both pupils and their families. Counselling for a pupil in isolation from their family and wider services will, at best, have a limited impact.
Our survey of members in schools highlights the lack of training and support for staff who are supposed to provide support for pupils with additional support needs as well as basic shortages of staff. Our more recent survey of social work staff also outlines the impact of cuts on social work teams. These cuts are creating difficulties in schools. Lack of resources means long waits to access proper assessment of pupils’ challenges and then further waits to access the right support, both in school and from wider services, once an assessment has been made. Improving resources for school, educational psychology, and social work staff would have a substantial impact on pupils’ wellbeing. We are not convinced that a counsellor will be effective without investment in wider services.