I welcome this debate. I worked in childcare many years ago, when it was difficult to get people to comprehend the scale of mental illness among children and young people. We have moved on from there, and I am really grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne East (Mr Brown) and the right hon. Member for Harlow (Mr Halfon) for securing this debate. I chaired the all-party parliamentary group for parental participation in education last week, and we heard that the charity Parentkind had produced a survey revealing parents’ concerns. It found that 41% of parents now see the need for additional resources to be spent on mental health services for children, and that this was their second highest priority after the need for additional learning resources.

We also received a briefing from the division of educational and child psychology of the British Psychological Society. I declare an interest, in that my wife is an educational psychologist, but as she reminds me, she is also a constituent so she has the right to lobby me, even if it is at the breakfast table. That report confirmed what my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne East (Mr Brown) said about incidence. The NHS’s own survey showed that in 2020, one in six children—that is 16%—aged between five and 16 were identified as having a probable mental disorder, increasing from one in nine in 2017. What I found startling was that the same study showed that only six in 10 children aged between five and 16 with a probable mental disorder had regular support from their school or college.

I fully welcome the additional funds that the Government have given, but most stakeholders believe that it is inadequate to meet the scale of the problem. My right hon. Friend pointed out that even by 2023, only 3 million of the 9.5 million children will receive the support that they need. What we have been arguing for is a comprehensive, fully functioning and fully funded pathway to support children with mental health problems, and that starts in school. That pathway usually starts as a result of a parent or teacher’s action, but some children now are self-reporting their mental health issues.

A crucial point was made by my hon. Friend the Member for York Central (Rachael Maskell) about a workforce strategy to provide support for teachers and special educational needs co-ordinators, but in this debate we are emphasising the fact that there have to be comprehensive counselling services embedded within those schools as well. Let me now give a plug for educational psychologists. They have the expertise to provide early help and targeted mental health interventions. They work with the counselling services, where they exist, and also with families. They are often the access points to child and adult mental health services and other health provision that is available, often through local health services and now through local authorities as well.

While we welcome the additional resources, I think we are arguing for the Government to stand back and look for that comprehensive approach, based on a work- force strategy and on the investment overall.

I refer back to educational psychologists. There are 3,000 of them in this country at the moment. That means one educational psychologist for every 3,500 five to 19-year-olds—or, because they now deal with those aged nought to 25, one for every 5,000. One early investment  could be the expansion of educational psychology training places on the three-year doctoral programme, which could be readily invested in and could turn around relatively quickly to meet the increase in demand if we are to construct the comprehensive pathway service for which we have all been campaigning for so long. I will leave it at that point, because I know that other hon. Members want to speak.

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