An innovative programme, delivered by three agencies in collaboration, will provide training in emotional health to staff who work with children
“There is a clear gap in professional development for the children’s workforce, who currently receive no mandatory training in children and young people’s mental health. This pilot aims to improve consistency, so that all workers who come into contact with children receive the same basic training in emotional health, much as we skill everyone in how to safeguard children." Debi Reilly, senior responsible officer for mental health, Health Education England
People who work with children and young people are to be trained as mental health professionals.
The training programme has been commissioned by Health Education England and will be delivered in partnership with the Anna Freud Centre, the National Children’s Bureau, and the Charlie Waller Trust.
Approximately 10,000 staff in three pilot sites, Southampton, Portsmouth, and Norfolk, will be given access to the training. The training will be offered to professionals in education, early years and childcare, physical health, library services, sports clubs, justice and crime prevention, youth and social, family, and community services.
Staff will be trained specifically in emotional health. This will teach them how to speak to children and young people about their mental health, what to say, where to go for useful resources and how they can get specialist help. The training will also educate staff on how to spot signs of anxiety, low self-esteem, and a loss of social confidence.
Debi Reilly, senior responsible officer for mental health and South West regional director at Health Education England, said: “We know more children and young people than ever need mental health support and treatment, so it is vital that we are able to raise awareness and help people spot the early signs that a child is struggling.
“There is a clear gap in professional development for the children’s workforce, who currently receive no mandatory training in children and young people’s mental health. This pilot aims to improve consistency, so that all workers who come into contact with children receive the same basic training in emotional health, much as we skill everyone in how to safeguard children.
“It isn’t designed to ask them to do more than they can or should within their role, it’s intended to complement existing skills and help them know what to look for, what to say and where to go for additional help or onward support and care when that’s needed.”
The training is being co-developed with the different stakeholders, including children and young people, parents and carers, and staff members. The training will also mirror the existing statutory safeguarding framework that this part of the workforce already completes.
If successful, the pilot will be launched nationally, enabling more staff throughout the children’s workforce to benefit.
Professor Peter Fonagy, chief executive of the Anna Freud Centre, said the pilot would “help to close the gap in support for children with mental health needs.” He added: “The Anna Freud Centre recognises that mental health needs for children and young people are on the rise. We need to support all those people who work with them to talk more confidently about emotional health, offering help where they are the right person to do so, and drawing in more specialist help when it is needed.
“It will take all of us, working together across local communities, to start to close the gap in children and young people’s mental health and how it is best supported.”
Wendy Minhinnett, parent/carer lived experience lead for the Charlie Waller Trust, described the pilot as “ground-breaking” and added: “Our experience in training parents, carers, teachers and employers shows that giving them the skills and confidence to spot signs of mental ill health leads to effective first line support for children.
“As a parent with lived experience of supporting a child with mental health difficulties, I’m delighted to be involved in this programme because it will help families get the support they need, when they need it.
“We believe the wider children’s workforce is a vast, untapped resource with potential to have a significant positive impact on young people’s mental health.”
All the evidence shows that mental health problems among young people are on the increase, providing challenges for over-stretched NHS mental health services. This innovative programme from Health Education England takes an admirably fresh approach to the problem in training those who work with young people to spot signs that a child might be struggling with mental health and provide early support. If the outcome is positive, then we hope that the training will be offered throughout the country.