The announcement coincides with the start of Mental Health Awareness Week.
The Minister for Education, Kirsty Williams, and Minister for Health and Social Services, Vaughan Gething, have today announced £3.75 million of funding for mental health in schools that will include new support for children under the age of 11.
School counselling services currently provide direct support to young people from the age of 11, or Year 6, up to the age of 18. The funding announced today will extend support to provide mental and emotional support to children younger than Year 6.
Around 11,500 young people each year access lower level mental health support, outside specialist NHS provision, in schools and community counselling services.
£450,000 will also go towards supporting mental health and well-being of the school workforce. The Welsh Government is working with partners to develop further plans on how that support will be delivered.
The funding is in addition to £1.25m announced by the Education Minister last month, for local authorities to deliver counselling services in schools, taking the total support to £5m this financial year.
Kirsty Williams said:
The coronavirus is inevitably causing additional anxiety for people of all ages, not least children and young people. We must therefore anticipate increased demand for mental health support among younger people.
We know that by tackling problems early you can stop them escalating. Although serious mental health issues are less prevalent among younger children, we’re extending the support available so that children under 11 can also receive support with their emotional well-being, if they need it.
We know traditional face-to-face counselling is not necessarily appropriate for younger children, who may lack the maturity to explain and understand the issues which concern them. Instead specialist therapies, such as those based on play and working with the wider family are much more effective and we will work with providers to develop these services as part of our wider whole school approach.
Vaughan Gething, said:
With the necessary restrictions on young people’s lives due to coronavirus, including less time with their friends and other family members, we must be prepared for an impact on children’s emotional wellbeing.
“So it’s important we continue to invest in mental health support for our young people during these very difficult times.