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Peer support and children’s and young people’s mental health

Analysis of call for evidence activities

It is the Government’s ambition that all young people achieve as well as they can academically and leave school prepared for life in modern Britain. Supporting them with managing their mental health and wellbeing is a vital underpinning to this aim.

We know that around one in ten children and young people aged between 5-16 years have a diagnosable mental health disorder, which is an average of three in every classroom, and that a further four or five children per class potentially have less severe problems or conditions. That is why the Government will be investing an additional £1.4 billion in children and young people’s mental health services before 2020. However, as the Future in Mind1 report made clear, providing more specialist services is not enough on its own to meet the challenges we face in improving mental health outcomes. There needs to be a greater focus on prevention and early intervention.

Schools and colleges have an important role to play in supporting the resilience and mental health of children and young people. We are committed to helping schools and colleges to support children and young people’s mental health, putting the information, tools and working practices in place that will enable them to both provide appropriate support themselves and to work collaboratively and effectively with health services and other providers.

To make a real difference we need to listen to young people and capture the enthusiasm they have for driving better mental health and wellbeing themselves. Young people have told us that when they need information or help for mental health concerns, apps or websites and their friends are the two sources they most frequently turn to first. They have also said that they would like to see more peer support available as a way of supporting their mental wellbeing and that they would like more settings to offer safe, effective programmes.

This report summarises and presents the findings from a range of activities undertaken by the Department for Education to develop our understanding and find out more about people’s knowledge and experience of peer support for children and young people’s mental health. This included support available within schools, in community settings and online. We wanted to better understand what best practice looks like, what training or accreditation it might include and how peer support fits within the range of mental health support available.

The call for evidence was part of work led a Steering Group and an Advisory Group. It comprised a range of workshops, an online call for evidence, a literature review and polls on social media. There was a strong focus on ensuring maximum engagement with young people to ensure we reflected their views.