NSPCC: More counsellors needed to help Banbury children with mental health issues

NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless
NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless

The growing crisis in children’s mental health highlighted in the Banbury Guardian has led to calls for more money to train counsellors.

The NSPCC, which incorporates the phone and online counselling service Childline, has called for a share of a £300 million mental health boost to aid its work.

The charity kicked off the Banbury Guardian’s investigation on children’s mental health by revealing the shocking rise in referrals to NHS services by Oxfordshire schools.

The statistics shared by the NSPCC show referrals from county education settings soared from 1,525 in 2014/15 to 2,257 last year, 2017/18.

Many were aged 11 and under and the youngest were just three-years-old. Typical problems include anxiety and depression, self harm, bullying and suicidal thoughts.

Banbury secondary school heads complained of delays in assessments in the NHS system and thresholds being raised, forcing children to wait for help.

Peter Wanless, CEO of the NSPCC said in a letter to health secretary Jeremy Hunt: “The NSPCC urgently needs to increase the number of volunteers and to improve and expand the training they receive. This will ensure Childline is equipped to support the more complex mental health needs children are coming to the service with.

“One in ten children in England have a diagnosable mental health condition yet less than a third receive NHS treatment or support.”

He said recent estimates suggest as many as one in four school-aged children experience some form of mental health issue and without early help, some of these initially manageable problems are likely to escalate to something much more serious.

“The government’s recent green paper Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision provides a crucial opportunity to reform our mental health system to make sure that all young people receive the help they need, when they need it.

“It includes welcome measures to improve school-based services but we believe the government can go further still.

“Government must think more widely about where and when children need support to address the real mental health crisis our young people face.”

Mr Wanless said Childline is now on the front line of mental health support for the young.

“Last year one in three Childline counselling sessions were about mental health and emotional wellbeing.

“The majority of these took place outside school hours – many in the middle of the night. The service has also seen a 150 per cent increase in counselling sessions with children who are suicidal since 2010-11.

“But currently the service is only able to support three in every four children who contacts it,” he said.

“We urge the government to allocate an appropriate proportion of the £300 million pledged in the green paper reforms to ensure that Childline is equipped to meet the rising demand.

“When a child is brave enough to reach out it is absolutely vital that the immediate response and support is there for them.”

The charity quoted a select committee report last month which found the government’s £300m plans to improve mental health provision for children ‘lacks ambition and will provide no help to the majority of children who desperately need it’.

n Children can get help via Childline confidentially, online and by phone. Go to www.childline.org.uk or call 0800 1111.

The charity said the level of support it wishes to offer through Childline is especially important where statutory services are overwhelmed or schools don’t have the expertise to deal with complex mental health issues.