We need mental health investment

I’m delighted that Liverpool City Council has secured government investment of almost £2.5 million in mental health support in schools.

Liverpool is one of just 25 areas across the country to get the additional funds to employ a team of mental health support specialists to aid teachers overwhelmed by rising mental health issues in the classroom and a lack of services in the community.

The city council will work with Liverpool’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Liverpool CAMHS Partnership, YPAS (Young Peoples Advisory Service) to set up three area-based teams to support 120 primary, 33 secondary and 12 special schools, as well as 22 alternative education providers and Liverpool Community College.

Following recruitment and training, the aim is for the Mental Health Teams to be fully operational by December 2019.

The number of school students with identified social, emotional and mental health needs in Liverpool increased from 1,833 to 2,139 between 2015-2017 – around 3 per cent of the school population, and significantly higher than the national average.

The city has introduced mental health first aid champions in every secondary school, a mental health course developed for primary schools, dedicated sessions from specialists and the creation of a mental health toolkit.

Of course, even this fantastic commitment from the council, schools, existing services and charities is not enough to make up for the lack of government investment over the last decade.

I have repeatedly raised in Parliament cuts to mental health services here in Liverpool. See here and here and here to read some of my exchanges with ministers on these issues.

The government’s much-delayed NHS Long Term Plan was published recently but didn’t include any information about the need to invest in the mental health workforce.

For instance, it promised a new mental health telephone helpline, but there is no use directing people in a crisis to a helpline to signpost care that either doesn’t exist, or they will struggle to access quickly.

Investing in young people’s mental health and supporting our schools with specialist services is vital, but this must be investment for the long-term.