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Economic evaluation of Place2Be’s Counselling Service in Primary Schools

Place2Be is a children’s mental health charity that provides in-school support and training to improve the emotional wellbeing of pupils, families, and staff in primary and secondary schools. Founded in 1994, by 2016/17 Place2Be’s services were reaching 116,000 pupils across 282 primary and secondary schools in the UK.

Mental health problems affect a significant number of children and young people in the UK. The available data suggests that one in ten children and young people aged 5-16 have a clinically diagnosable mental health problem. This corresponds to around 850,000 children and young people in total, or roughly three in every school class. Children suffer from a range of difficulties, including conduct disorder (5.8% of children), anxiety (3.3%), hyperkinetic disorder (1.5%) and depression (0.9%).

Mental health problems can have a significant impact on children and young people’s lives, and without effective intervention can damage their long-term prospects. The Government is seeking to improve mental health provision for children and young people and has recognised the important role that schools and colleges play in identifying mental health issues at an early stage, and in helping to put in place support for children experiencing difficulties. Charities such as Place2Be have a valuable part to play in improving outcomes for children through in-school mental health support, particularly where schools lack the necessary resources or expertise.

Study scope and aims

Place2Be asked Pro Bono Economics to assess the value for money of its one-to-one counselling service in primary schools. Our analysis is intended to provide insight into the economic case for in-school provision of this type of service and support commissioning decisions.

Our study focuses on the activities of the counselling service in 2016/17. In this year, 4,548 children in 251 primary schools benefited from the service. We use existing evidence to link improvements in the mental health of these children to better future outcomes in seven different areas as they reach adolescence and adulthood, including school attendance, employment prospects, and involvement in criminal behaviour. The economic benefit of the programme is estimated as the total monetary value associated with improvements in these outcomes, including higher output from employment and lower spending on public services (such as health and the criminal justice system), that accrue over the lifetime of the children who attend the counselling service.