The rollout of mental health support teams in schools in England cannot be guaranteed beyond 2023, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has said.
In a statement published today, the DHSC said the 399 mental health support teams (MHSTs) commissioned in school so far means they will cover 35% of pupils when all operational in 2023, but could not commit to any further rollout beyond that date.
This follows a child and young people’s mental health report from the health and social care committee published in November, which called for the DHSC to ‘fully fund and scale up’ the rollout of MHSTs to cover two-third of schools in England by 2024/5 and all schools by 2027/8.
In its response to the report, the DHSC said it anticipates ‘further waves’ of MHSTs commissioned in 2022 and 2023, although the number of teams is ‘subject to confirmation’. But further rollout beyond 2023 is ‘contingent on future funding settlements,’ it added.
The Government introduced MHSTs in 2017 to work with children and staff in education and settings to deliver interventions for mild to moderate mental health issues, often alongside school nurse support. They can also provide text services and training sessions for parents and teachers.
This rollout has so far been backed in part by an additional £79m announced by the DHSC in March 2021, which charities at the time suggested was not enough to ‘create the change that is needed’.
Over 180 MHSTs are currently operational, covering around 15% of pupils in England. In 2021/22, 104 more teams were commissioned to cover between 20% and 25% of pupils when they become operational in 2022. A further 112 will all be operational in 203. giving a total of 399.
Also in its response, the DHSC said: ‘The Government and the NHS remain committed to continuing to increase access, reduce waiting times, and improve outcomes and experience in mental health support for children and young people.
‘Despite the challenges the global pandemic has presented for children and young people, families, and services, there has been consistent delivery against the ambitious commitments the government has made.’
Official data from October found the mental health of children and young people has not improved since lockdown in 2020, with one in six suffering a probable mental health disorder.