Mental Health: What are your obligations?

Mental Health: What are your obligations?

In the 2020 update to Keeping children safe in education (KCSIE)  the Department for Education amended their definition of safeguarding to refer to mental health. 

Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children is defined for the purposes of the guidance as:  

Can you identify those at risk or developing mental health problems?

New paragraphs have also been included in KCSIE to help staff connect mental health concerns with safeguarding. 

The guidance now advises that all staff should be aware that mental health problems can, in some cases, be an indicator that a child has suffered or is at risk of suffering abuse, neglect or exploitation. 

Whilst it is acknowledged that ‘only appropriately trained professionals should attempt to make a diagnosis of a mental health problem’. KCSIE 2020 stipulates that staff are well placed to observe children day-to-day and identify those whose behaviour suggests that they may be experiencing a mental health problem or be at risk of developing one. 

What are the signs and symptoms of poor mental health?

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   Remember: If you have a mental health concern about a child that is also a safeguarding concern, immediate action should be taken, following your child protection policy and speaking to the designated safeguarding lead or a deputy.  

Schools’ responsibilities in relation to mental health 

Schools have an important role to play in supporting the mental health and wellbeing of their pupils. And whilst there is no requirement on schools to have a standalone mental health policy, some do choose to do so. However, schools are required to produce (and in some cases publish online) a range of policies which can be used to promote and support mental health and wellbeing. 

For example, the DfE advises that a school leadership team should ensure there are clear policies and processes in place to ensure that stigma is reduced and pupils feel comfortable talking about mental health concerns and that pupils should know where to go for further information or support should they want to talk about their own, their peers’, or their families mental health or wellbeing. 

As mental health problems can, in some cases, be an indicator that a child has suffered or is at risk of suffering abuse, neglect or exploitation. It is essential that staff are aware of their safeguarding responsibilities. 

When schools suspect that a pupil is having mental health difficulties, they should not delay putting support in place. 

Staff training in mental health 

As specified DfE guidance: Mental health and behaviour in schools 

The leadership team should promote continuous professional development to ensure that staff are aware of some common symptoms of mental health problems: what is and isn’t a cause for concern; and what to do if they think they have spotted a developing problem. 

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   Only appropriately trained professionals should attempt to make a diagnosis of a mental health problem. Non-professional diagnoses, however well-meant, can exacerbate or promote mental health problems. 

Designated Senior Leads for Mental Health 

The government’s proposal is that new Mental Health Support Teams will be established in 20-25% of England by 2023. They will improve collaboration between schools and specialist services, providing a wider range of support and interventions in or near schools and colleges. The teams will be linked to groups of schools and colleges, and will work closely with other professionals such as educational psychologists, school nurses, counsellors, social workers and others to assess and refer children for other specialist treatments if necessary. 

Mental Health Support Teams will work with the Designated Senior Leads for Mental Health which schools are encouraged to put in place. 

FREE Webinar: Identifying Mental health problems – your new obligations

Weds 23rd September, 4pm BST 

Sharon White OBE, CEO of the School and Public Health Nurses Association (SAPHNA) is recognised as a global expert on School Nursing and as a passionate advocate for children, young people and their families, as such, she works across national and international Government Departments influencing, challenging and developing policy whilst driving forward the school nursing profession. In this webinar, Sharon will cover the processes schools should have in place for identifying possible mental health problems – now a key obligation for schools. As there is now a clearer link between mental health and safeguarding, schools have to play a part in detecting possible problems and supporting good mental wellbeing. All staff should now be aware that mental health problems can be an indication of abuse, neglect or exploitation and whilst only professionals should diagnose mental health problems, staff need to be well placed to identify behaviour which may indicate that a child is experiencing mental health problems or is at risk of developing one. Schools must now recognise their role in supporting their pupils’ mental health, and governing bodies and proprietors should ensure they have clear systems and processes in place for identifying possible problems, including routes to escalate concerns and clear referral and accountability systems. Sharon will cover the role of school mental health support teams and provide guidance for how schools can support children and young people, including suggestions for policies and processes that schools can implement.

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EduCare mental health training courses 

As part of our broad portfolio of safeguarding and duty of care training courses, we have a range of online mental health training courses written for school staff to help support the children and young people in their care. 

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