Munira and Baroness Tyler (Liberal Democrat Lord’s Spokesperson for Mental Health) have written to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak MP, urging him to provide a ringfenced fund for schools to invest in young people’s mental health support.

Whilst the Government has made some funds available to schools to facilitate students catching up following the disruption caused by the pandemic, the primary focus of these funds is on academic catch up.

Without adequate mental health support after so many young people have experienced the impact of the pandemic, academic catch up could be undermined.

The text of the letter reads:

Dear Mr Sunak,

We are writing to you ahead of the forthcoming Spring Budget to highlight the urgent need for increased funding for children and young people’s mental health services.

These times have undoubtedly been challenging for everyone, but in particular, the pandemic has had a significant detrimental impact on children and young people’s mental wellbeing. Given the disruption to their education and with schools, colleges, and in-person university teaching being closed or inaccessible for the majority of young people, many have felt anxious and isolated. Others have struggled with bereavement, family trauma and a breakdown in formal and informal support.

We know that 1 in 6 children aged 5 to 15 now has a probable mental health issue, rising by a third from 1 in 9 in 2017, and the demand for acute beds for young people who have reached crisis point has soared. Indeed, The Prince’s Trust has recently reported that more than half of young people often feel anxious and concerned about their job prospects. These figures couldn’t be clearer: we are facing a crisis in children and young people’s mental health.

Failure to provide high-quality early intervention services for young people’s mental health has been shown to create risks for long term social and health outcomes, which have a crushing impact on each individual with a mental health problem. Untreated issues go on to have an impact on employment, relationships, and educational outcomes.

This can also impact the public purse more broadly, as the annual cost of mental disorder in England is estimated to be £119bn. Investing in young people’s mental health early is vital for increasing their participation in the labour market as we recover from the long-term impacts of the pandemic.

Furthermore, although it is welcome that the Government has placed education at the heart of its promise to level up the country, the impacts of the pandemic on young people’s mental health significantly threaten to undermine the academic-centred approach to policy it is taking. Schools play a crucial role in supporting young people’s mental health, but given the anticipated scale of need as children and young people return to school, it is likely that existing provision is inadequate. Prior to the pandemic, one-third of schools did not provide any in-school mental health support. This suggests that much more emphasis needs to be put on sources of mental
wellbeing support being made available across all schools in the UK.

Although schools have some flexibility in spending the Government’s catch-up premium to address mental health support, the Government guidance that has been issued heavily emphasises academic catch-up. The £8 million Wellbeing in Education Return Programme is simply not enough to address the scale of need. Without the right mental health support, the significant investment the Government has made in the catch-up premium will be undermined or be less successful in achieving academic aims if young people are not able to engage in their education because of limited access to mental health support.

We therefore urge you to introduce a ringfenced £178 million Resilience Fund, as proposed by leading young people’s mental health charity Young Minds, for schools to use to ensure young people are given the mental health support they need. This money would be vital in enabling schools to fund interventions, such as counselling or digital mental health support that address the specific needs of their students. A high degree of flexibility in the fund would enable schools to apply care to the context of their locality, with the agency to support the individuals who are in need of help
within their school.

Our children and young people are currently not receiving the mental health support that they deserve. That is why intervention in young people’s mental health provision in schools is a necessary step that the Government must take in the nationwide recovery plan from the pandemic.

Yours sincerely

MP for Twickenham
Liberal Democrats Lords Spokesperson
for Health, Wellbeing, and Social Care

Liberal Democrats Spokesperson for Mental Health