Introduced by the Senior Public Health Programme Manager, the report highlighted the progress made so far on the School Wellbeing Service (SWS). The proposal was for the School Wellbeing Service to develop its work within each school based on its existing provisions. The ethos was to create a mentally healthy school environment in each school.
Stating the importance of mental health, the Youth Cabinet Representative 2 was also pleased to see funding for the SWS from several sources. Referring to paragraph 3.5 on page 70 where it was stated the current service was not suitable for low level mental health issues; the Youth Cabinet Representative 2 queried if SWS would resolve this. The Senior Public Health Programme Manager explained the SWS would identify the needs through each school’s self-assessments and then co-ordinate the support required. The SWS was expected to have knowledge of all services across the Borough and allocate accordingly.
Continuing on, the Youth Cabinet Representative 2 questioned the pathways into the SWS once a need was identified. Answering that the pathways were an operational detail to smooth out, the Senior Public Health Programme Manager hoped the SWS would provide the support to meet identified needs. The Youth Cabinet Representative 2 went on to ask clarification on the meaning of 1.5 School Wellbeing Worker to which the Senior Public Health Programme Manager answered 1 full time whole time equivalent worker and .5 was half time.
The Church of England Representative welcomed the report and stated the importance of mental health. There were some schools that were already good at identifying needs and in making referrals but did not have the services available. She expressed concern on the 6.5 WTE suggested as there was not enough facilities for mental health support so she could not understand how 6.5 WTE would make any difference.
Referring to ‘employing an educational psychologist and developing systems of working’ on paragraph 3.4 on page 70, the Church of England Representative questioned who would be working together. She expressed further concern on the need for mental health services in Thurrock schools. Explaining that mental health was a national concern, the Corporate Director explained the rationale behind the SWS was to shift the culture and thinking of mental health. Schools were not receiving the service needed but service providers were still doing well. However, the need for mental health services was being driven by the Mental Health Summit.
Regarding the 6.5 WTE, the Corporate Director said this would give a broader impact of the SWS. A number of schools had their own set of initiatives on mental health and the next step was how this could be brought together so the service would be working with schools. The service was trying to change to incorporate better mental health services into their system which may end up with ideas that may or may not work but the service had the ambition and drive to ensure the SWS would work.
On counselling, the Chair asked if this would be offered or whether there would be referrals for this. The Senior Public Health Programme Manager replied the service was working with London South Bank University (LSBU) on a mental health strategy and the impact of the SWS. Counselling would be on a case by case basis and would be referred to services across Thurrock.
Going back to an earlier point made by the Church of England Representative, the Youth Cabinet Representatives commented that not all schools were good at identifying mental health issues as this was not the case in their schools.
Councillor Redsell mentioned that if a designated mental health lead was placed in schools, it would help to take some of the workload off teachers who already had too much work. She went on to say that in a lot of schools that she had dealt with, bullying was not addressed and there was a need to ensure schools handled these issues. The Senior Public Health Programme Manager explained a designated mental health lead was not part of the SWS as schools were responsible for interventions in bullying which was a national directive. If bullying was identified within the SWS in a school, an anti-bullying programme would be delivered in the school to address the issue. Councillor Redsell went on to say that teachers would still be taking responsibility in identifying bullying issues as they were present within the schools. She expressed concern on how well the SWS would work as the services available would be the same as before so could not understand how casework would be facilitated.
Sharing the same concerns, the Parent Governor Representative said staff in her school were already overstretched on workload and would not be able to take on the role of a designated mental health lead. The Corporate Director explained out that the service would not be placing a designated mental health lead in schools. However, there was a role on looking at the environment within a school and issues that had a broader impact on schools.
Continuing on, the Corporate Director stated the SWS would open dialogue up with the commissioning service and new ways of thinking on how processes could operate differently. Some schools did have a designated mental health worker and had been able to work with local mental health services. This enabled schools to adapt the mental health service to the schools’ needs. The SWS could help to bring in activities to help build impact onto children’s mental health and wellbeing so it was not adding to teacher’s workloads but instead encouraging them to think of different ways to work.
On the 6.5 WTE, Councillor Redsell asked if this would be led locally or advertised nationally. The Corporate Director answered the roles were for anyone who was suitable.
The Church of England Representative commented there was not a single solution to mental health issues as children were in stressful environments. She felt politicians needed to look at the national curriculum and hoped to see a future report to update the Committee on the SWS.
Councillor Akinbohun queried if the service had thought of using volunteers instead of the 6.5 WTE. The Senior Public Health Programme Manager replied the idea of volunteers had not been considered. However, volunteers would need to be trained which would take up more time and resources. Volunteers could be considered as supplementing the proposed 6.5 WTE.
1.1 That Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny discussed the strategic direction of travel for implementing a School Wellbeing Service as a preventative offer to improving Children and Young People’s Emotional Wellbeing and Mental Health.
1.2 That Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny discussed the funding required to implement a School Wellbeing Service in Thurrock.