Report

In July 2016 I was given what I now realise was the largely meaningless, tokenistic role of government ‘Mental Health Champion’. Almost immediately the news was announced people began ringing and emailing me – People in real distress, people who had been campaigning for years to achieve a relatively simple change which would dramatically improve their mental health, or would have prevented the loss of a loved-one to suicide and people who wanted me to come and see the wonderful work they were doing in schools.

I also at this time sought to fill in the gaps in my own knowledge, since I took the role of Mental Health Champion seriously and had been told by the DfE it was an opportunity to ‘influence policy’. At Self-Esteem Team we work with 12-18 year olds and, in collaboration with our four experts, we teach teenagers universally relevant skills for the promotion of good mental health. We might discuss specifically the four most common mental illnesses in under 21s: anxiety, depression, self-harm and eating disorders, but our remit doesn’t tend to extend beyond this.

I was not, last summer, sufficiently well informed on mental health in children under the age of 12, psychosis, or the impact of bullying. I set about doing training with Mental Health First Aid England and consulting with the Anti Bullying Alliance as well as interviewing educational and paediatric psychologists to ensure I had a level of understanding which would allow me to ‘influence policy’ in the most productive way possible.

When the Department for Education unceremoniously chucked me in May, I felt that it wasn’t just me who had been cast aside – It was all the people who had given up their time and expertise and who had shared their personal experiences with me. And it was a feeling I found difficult to live with. I had been compiling a report for DfE on ‘best practice’ in schools but, assuming they no longer wanted it, I changed the nature of the report to reflect all the aspects of policy, particularly within education, which I understood to be detrimental to pupil and teacher mental health and my recommendations for how this could be changed.

Last week, I submitted my report to Norman Lamb and to the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Commission. I also gave the report to the excellent Cathy Newman at Channel 4, who prepared a package about its contents which aired during the news this evening and to the Guardian, who are publishing excerpts on their education pages tomorrow.

In order to make my report topical and newsworthy, I included a section which revealed the details of a Subject Access Request I’d conducted after leaving DfE. These are extracts, mostly from inter-departmental emails, which reveal not only the extent of their contempt for me, but (in my opinion) how the issue of mental health is being used more broadly within government as a PR exercise and vote-winner, as opposed to something which requires tangible and immediate action. Some details from the SAR are in this week’s Times Educational Supplement, as well as in the Guardian’s piece.

But I’m also determined that the ‘Thick of It’ management style at the DfE and the (hardly shocking) news that Tory politicians apparently don’t have much of a moral compass doesn’t detract from what needs to be done. So I have reproduced below the section of my report where I give my recommendations.

If you would like to see the report in full (all 20,000 words of it) which contains details of the experts I sought guidance from in order to arrive at these conclusions, leave your email address and details of the organisation you represent (if appropriate) in the comments section below. I also welcome any feedback you have.

Please share this blog far and wide and let’s hope that something positive comes out of the whole murky experience of my dalliances with DfE.

Recommendations

  1. PHSE (Personal Health and Social Education) made mandatory, given time within the curriculum, specially qualified teachers and an appropriate budget.
  2. Ofsted use wellbeing criteria to analyse whether schools have found ways to meet children’s basic emotional needs (as defined in the report), as well as providing tier 1 and 2 support (as defined in the report) for children struggling with their mental and emotional health.
  3. However, new Ofsted wellbeing criteria should not be implemented until schools have been given appropriate resources, time and budget to implement these systems.
  4. Ofsted stop counting incidents of bullying in schools records.
  5. DfE research and implement ways to provide therapeutic and other interventions in schools for children in emotional distress who do not meet the criteria for CAMHS (and that is not ‘peer mentoring’).
  6. Government research and release up-to-date, nationwide mental health statistics.
  7. Government examine the impact of its education policy on pupil and teacher wellbeing objectively, using not only a range of independent experts but also randomly selected teachers and school staff from throughout the country, who work in both the state and independent sectors.
  8. Equal number of teachers given Mental Health First Aid training as physical first aid, either in-school or as part of their teacher training if entering the profession.
  9. A specially-appointed ‘point of contact’ in all schools for mental health in the same way as there is for safe guarding.
  10. Government ring-fence remaining investment into young people’s mental health to ensure Local Authorities do not spend it on other things.
  11. NHS examine provide more extensive ‘interim support’ for children and young people waiting for a CAMHs appointment.
  12. State schools given a budget to invest in supplementary support for their PSHE or wellbeing programmes, perhaps as part of the Local Transformation Plan initiative.
  13. Independent enquiry into the impartiality of all government advisors.
  14. DfE be honest on appointment of new Mental Health Champion i.e. admit that is merely a comms role and way to generate extra publicity for DfE initiatives, in order to manage public expectation.
  15. More investment into Educational Psychology, which has been cut recently and is fundamental in understanding how to tailor interventions according to the unique needs of every child;
  16. More importance placed on role of Teaching Assistants, who are key in providing pastoral care and often mediate the elements of school culture which are not conducive to good mental health e.g. larger class sizes and behavioural issues.
  17. Find a way to quality assure School Counsellors e.g. all must belong to a regulating body.
  18. All English school children to have access to a quality-assured school counsellor (as is the case in Wales and Northern Ireland).
  19. CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) follow up missed appointments with lots of appropriate reassurance and not allow young people to ‘drop off the radar’.
  20. CAMHS offices made more welcoming for children and young people and CAMHS workers trained specifically in how to deal with children and young people.

 

Advertisements

18 thoughts on “Report

  1. Hi Natasha, well done for producing the report and staying true to your beliefs. I really would love to see the full report please.

    I have been a children’s social worker 17 years and now working on Mindfulness. I agree from first look on your recommendations; from my own experience schools are over-loaded with no real infrastructure to support the ‘whole school approach’, I know some are forward thinking, others (certainly in my area) seem too overloaded to consider new approaches. Pity the ‘school/community’ aspirations of Every Child Matters (children’s and community centres attached to schools with multi-disciplinary co-located ‘professionals’) was never truly invested in all those years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on SbSocialWork Ltd and commented:
    Natasha Devon, MBE has written a summary of her report on Children’s Mental Health and you can find it on the link below – it’s ‘reader-friendly’ I promise! I agree with Natasha Devon’s recommendations from my many years working with children and young people, and having kept an eye on her work since listening to her at a conference in December 2015 I find her approach refreshing and well-informed, along with the work of her Self-Esteem Team.

    Like

  3. I would love to see the full report.

    I am a Politics student.

    My own experience of depression has inspired me to campaign on homelessness. As I am sure you are aware, poor mental health disproportionately affects those without a fixed address.

    Young people who face mental health difficulties are particularly vulnerable, with them being excluded from welfare support such as housing benefit.

    Keep up the good work, you inspire me.

    Like

  4. Hi Natasha, I’m a huge fan of your work; I’d love to see the full report please. I work on behalf of the Liverpoool CAMHS partnership, but also involved in other projects including exploring whole school approaches to MH in Liverpool and a training programme for the workforce & parents around building children’s resilience.

    Keep up your amazing work.

    Like

  5. Yes… you made the mistake that many MPs or Ministers do not make, you tried to do something. You tried to improve things and make a difference.

    While the pedantic navelgazers were tweeting “show us the evidence”, you were responding to the reports, phone calls and emails from those affected and actually doing something.

    That was never going to go down well, which is a shame for all those with existing and/or developing mental health issues.

    You have my respect for doing the honourable thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Natasha,
    Please could you forward me a copy of your report – it looks great. My email is Helen_Tyson@sandwell.co.uk
    I am an educational psychologist and my specialism is social, emotional and mental health; I have a particular interest in universal/whole school approaches to supporting wellbeing.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Looking at the state of children in school and the amount of supposingly supporting therapy to mental health and to other therapies to drugs children given by authority ( without asking the child’s) understanding on both sides to the effects. shows how wrong school is for the mass of children. We look at who runs mental health and why so much money is being pumped into the schools. What is CHAMMS all about thought children didn’t go to school to be calmed down but to be inspired and to rise as individuals. We get to the MIND to who controls our mind. And at this present moment I watch to observe the local authority’s to forcing our children away from their natural environment. I’m Who are both under the mental health agenda of reporting on our childre’s every move to mind. I watch the emotional abuse of public servants Who cause families much distress once they hold a child against their human rights, and our wishes by imprisoning our children into their school agenda which creates mental health. School as I see they are to be the root cause of a child’s health where children easily get lost in the present system. . I look at the behaviour and find their process into cruelty one to be beyond belief. Games are played between the government placement teachers and those above them Who ‘groom ‘ a child into a puppet mentality taking away their right to question. Do we have rights? I see those inappropriate social service workers to management as evil and cruel who should be taken out of action by the right sorce. I wonder what Mr Stephen Fry and his partners who supply so much into the MIND projects to Money. Seeing that I fact it’s school and our human rights much join together. Linda ( mother ) showing serious crimes with fathers background education for into violence and repressed children we show. http://www.ipornographerbooks.com. We show their crimes against the family.
    Linda Pow

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you for producing your report and for sharing this summary The work you have been doing is so important. I would love to see a copy of the full report.

    I work with children and young people and over the last few years I have been working a lot with children who are highly distressed and have really poor low well-being, I am also writing a book for early years practitioners about promoting young children’s well-being. I was so frustrated to hear and read about the way the DFE chose to not continue working with. Thank you for continuing to speak out and highlight the issues of mental health in children and young people.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi Natasha, I’d love to read the report- I’m Pastoral Director at a girls prep school and think it’s such an important issue to deal with! Thank you, you are a real inspiration – heard you speak at a conference earlier in the year and it was worth it just for your session.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s