One in ten children will in any one year experience a mental health problem – that’s three children in every class of 30, a sobering statistic. For many, their issues will continue into adulthood. Much of our work here at the Foundation is concerned in one way or another with promoting children’s social and emotional wellbeing, and we know from speaking to our partners that statutory services lack capacity to intervene at the early stage when problems can be addressed before they escalate.
Schools can play a critical part here. We have for several years funded Place2Be, whose school counsellors help children cope with wide-ranging and often complex social issues including bullying, bereavement, domestic violence and family breakdown. In addition to helping the children they work directly with, Place2Be’s councillors also work with teachers and other school staff to better identify problems early on, and to increase awareness and reduce stigma across the whole school. Place2Be’s counsellors are now in 257 primary and secondary schools, reaching a school population of 105,000 children. We plan to continue offering unrestricted funding so that more children, families and school communities can benefit from this much needed expertise.
But some children need more intensive support. We are therefore proud to announce a donation of £2.5m to the Anna Freud Centre’s new centre of excellence where they will pioneer a new approach in children’s mental health. With over 60 years’ experience caring for young minds, the Anna Freud Centre works with over 300 schools across the UK, trains more than 600 postgraduate students each year and collaborates closely with other sector leaders including UCL and Yale to further evidence-based practice and policy. We will be supporting the Centre’s plans to expand into new premises near King’s Cross, where their many strands of work will be brought together under one roof integrating clinical expertise, training and research with an innovative educational facility for children with severe emotional and behavioural issues.
Our funding is towards The Family School which will be at the heart of the new centre, combining high quality teaching with mental health support in a non stigmatising environment. At full capacity the school will offer intensive, tailored psychological and educational support for up to 48 children aged between 5 and 14 who are at risk of permanent exclusion from mainstream school, and their families.
The close involvement of parents or carers is central to the school’s approach, as is working with teachers and other professionals to build the right support network around each child long term. For some children a short stay at the school may be enough, others may need up to a year but for all the children the school’s aim is to reintegrate them back into mainstream setting.
At Pears, we will continue to work with and learn from our partners to develop our understanding of the challenges children face today, and how they can best be supported – but also how society needs to change to improve social and emotional wellbeing for all.