Munira, alongside her colleague, Daisy Cooper MP, has backed calls for a national commitment to counselling provision in English secondary schools and colleges, to deal with the “profound impact” of Covid on young people.

In a letter to the Chancellor, Munira and Daisy set out their “wholehearted” support for the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy’s campaign to pump millions into mental health support. 

BACP believe that through early intervention, this move would reduce the burden on the NHS CAMHS services in the wake of the pandemic. 

Munira said:

“The pandemic has had a profound impact on the mental health of children and young people. Stress and anxiety are on the rise and too many are suffering in silence, when we know early intervention is key.

Providing access to counselling in schools would be a lifeline to many young people, allowing them to get the support they need before they reach crisis point. This early intervention will prevent mental health issues from worsening and hopefully reduce the numbers who need more extensive support further down the line.

The Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to invest in the future by prioritising access to counselling  for children and young people who are already dealing with so much.”

Daisy said:

“Children have suffered a huge amount of disruption this year and with so much continuing uncertainty it’s no surprise that a number of young people are experiencing mental ill health, often for the first time. 

Schools are best placed to provide rapid access to mental health support, but they simply don’t have the resources to do so. Young people are suffering needlessly as a result. 

The Conservatives must put that right, and get behind our plans to ensure every secondary school and college in England can provide access to counselling for their pupils through this difficult period and beyond.”

The letter

The full text of the letter to the Chancellor is below:

We write ahead of the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR), regarding the impact that the COVID19 pandemic is having on the mental health and wellbeing of young people. 

We ask that you use the CSR to make funding available to ensure young people who are struggling with mental ill-health at this incredibly difficult time, get the support they need.

The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) has consistently called for a national commitment to counselling provision in secondary schools and colleges in England, and we wholeheartedly support their campaign. 

BACP has estimated that the cost to deliver a single session of school counselling is between £34 and £47. Therefore, the total cost of a child accessing an average of five counselling sessions would be between £171 and £233. This would undoubtedly help reduce the number of referrals to community CAMHS,  the average cost of which is £2,338. 

BACP estimate that delivering a national programme of school-based counselling to all state funded secondary schools and academies in England would cost between £76 and £104 million a year. 

School-based counselling has been shown to reduce psychological distress and to bring about improvements in wellbeing and educational attainment. Universal provision of counselling in schools and colleges will also alleviate the increased demand for NHS CAMHS services and ensure that children and young people who do not meet the threshold for NHS mental health services, still get essential support. 

The NHS Long Term Plan includes a commitment to the development of new mental health support teams (MHSTs) that will work with up to a quarter of schools and colleges in England by 2023.  BACP’s proposal aims to complement this existing investment by providing “a cost effective and universal, non-stigmatising early intervention”, which will meet needs in the 75-80% of schools which are not supported by this new model.

The BACP make the case that although access to counsellors is being piloted in a handful of education settings across England, this means that access is geographically inconsistent. Furthermore, heightened demand for these services, due to the pandemic, means consistent, nation-wide provision is needed now, rather than waiting for these pilots to complete.  

As the BACP point out, “a trained, professional counselling and psychotherapy workforce is immediately available to support the nation through the mental health crisis facing our children and young people” . We urge you to provide schools and colleges with the resources they need, to make sure this support reaches the young people who desperately need it.