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Early intervention is vital to supporting children’s mental health and more help is needed urgently, say school leaders, responding to EPI report

Responding to a report by the Education Policy Institute (EPI) looking at access to children’s mental health services, Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “It is exceptionally concerning that a quarter of children referred to mental health services are rejected. With referrals going up 26% in the last 5 years, that is tens of thousands of children being denied help.

“And the reason given in most cases, that the problem is ‘not serious enough’, simply isn’t okay. Early intervention is vital when it comes to mental health. A recent joint survey by NAHT and ITN showed that more than 87% of school leaders have had to re-refer the same pupil to children’s social care after an initial referral was rejected. Problems don’t just go away when a child is denied help – they only get worse. If a teacher who sees a child every day is concerned enough to refer a child for help, they must be taken seriously.

“One of the most worrying aspects of this EPI report is that children who are referred but denied help are very rarely given any alternative support or followed up with. Untold numbers of children are just falling through the gaps and are then lost, not getting the specialist support they need, and ignored by the system. It just isn’t good enough. Schools are being left to pick up the pieces, struggling to do as much as they can to support children and their families in the absence of specialist support.

“The government is taking steps to improve mental health services for children and young people, and its mental health green paper takes the right approach. But it is doesn’t go far enough quickly enough. New funding and training isn’t going to reach the vast majority of areas for more than 5 years. Children need help now. We urge the departments of Health and Education to accelerate their plans and urgently improve access to mental health support for children and young people across the country.”

Press and Media contacts:

Steven George
NAHT Head of Press and Media
01444 472886
07970 907730

Rose Tremlett 
Senior Press Officer 
07545 354363

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