This week the Government announced significant new measures to improve mental health support for children and young people.
Under the £300million plan every school and college will be encouraged to have a ‘designated senior mental health lead’, mental health support teams will work with schools to give children and young people earlier access to services, and a four-week waiting time for NHS children and young people’s mental health services will be piloted.
The proposals address the key concern raised at a teenage mental health ‘summit’ which I held at Steyning Grammar School last month, at which young people and parents called for better support for teenagers with mental health problems.
One of the young people who spoke at the summit, Jake Boase, said afterwards that the event had given him, “the chance to have a voice for all the unheard sufferers out there, that things have to change, improve and most importantly to fight the stigma surrounding such a serious issue.”
I believe there is growing political attention to mental health, and the Government’s new plan reflects this.
I want to see much more being done to help young people like Jake, with the right support being made available at the earliest opportunity.
Schools are high up on my agenda at the moment because the amount of funding they are due to receive next year will shortly be set, with a key local schools forum meeting this week.
In September the Government announced an increase of nearly £30million in funding for West Sussex schools through the new National Funding Formula which is intended to make funding fairer. West Sussex MPs welcomed this extra money. We had lobbied hard for fairer funding as it was clear to us that our schools were not receiving the same treatment as equivalent schools in other areas.
However, the county council says that much of the expected benefit of the extra funding will not be passed on to schools because of various cost pressures. The position of smaller rural primary schools is particularly challenging where their pupil numbers have been falling.
West Sussex MPs met at the House of Commons on Monday to discuss what has happened to the funding, as well as school standards in the county, and we have concerns about both.
I will be visiting a number of rural primary schools in my constituency next week to be briefed by head teachers and governors.
I will continue to do my best for the schools and pupils in my constituency.
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