Psychologist with young boy in an office

Children’s mental health to be boosted by innovative training programme

The children and young person’s workforce is set to be bolstered by a new initiative that will see everyone from family and youth workers all the way to sports coaches and librarians trained as mental health professionals.

The innovative 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 will be given access to the training across the three pilots sites – Southampton, Portsmouth, and Norfolk. The upskilling will cover 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, which 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 losses 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.”

Prior to its eventual delivery across the three pilot sites, the training is being co-developed in conjunction with all the various 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.

The ultimate goal of the pilot is for it to be launched nationally, benefiting more parts of the children’s workforce up and down the country.

The Anna Freud Centre’s Chief Executive, Professor Peter Fonagy, added: “We are delighted to support Health Education England with this important pilot project that will help to close the gap in support for children with mental health needs.

“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.”

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NHE May/June 2024

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