Fully funded, school-based counselling needs to be available in all state-funded secondary schools and academies, to help support rising numbers of children and young people reporting mental health issues during COVID-19, the LGA has said.
The number of young people in contact with mental health services in England increased by nearly a third (29 per cent), to 305,802 in February 2021, from 237,088 in March 2020, according to the latest figures.
It is estimated that 1.5 million children and young people will need support for their mental health as a direct result of the pandemic over the next three to five years.
The LGA said the Government should use the Spending Review to invest at least £100 million a year into rolling out school-based counselling to all state secondary schools and academies, which would ensure access to a school counsellor for at least two days a week for more than 90 per cent of schools. This would complement the existing rollout of mental health support teams in schools.
The LGA has also urged government to invest £900 million in the public health grant, to return it to its 2015/16 level in real terms.
It said that three-quarters of mental health problems first emerge before the age of 24, so it makes sense economically to invest in mental health support for young people.
Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Wellbeing Board, said: “With reports showing increasing numbers of young people seeking mental health support during the pandemic, it is crucial that early intervention and prevention services, such as school counselling – where pupils may feel more able to confide in trusted professionals – are able to help children avoid reaching crisis point in the first place.”