Government publishes green paper on children and young people’s mental health

Posted 13/12/2017

Last week the government published a ‘green paper’ about improving mental health support for children and young people in England. In the green paper the government says that it wants to “put schools and colleges at the heart of our efforts to intervene early and prevent problems escalating” and argues that its proposals would “represent an ambitious new approach to helping all children and young people live happy and fulfilling lives”.

What is a green paper?

A green paper is a government publication that proposes new policies or laws. It isn’t a set of policies or laws in itself; rather, it’s intended to encourage discussion and offer people the chance to share their views.

How has Beat been involved so far?

Beat was one of several mental health charities invited to advise the government on what they should include in the green paper. We focused on:

  • The implementation of the national strategy for children and young people’s mental health, ‘Future in Mind’, published in 2015.
  • Improving connections between schools/colleges/universities and NHS eating disorders services.
  • Supporting teachers and other school and college staff to help them facilitate early intervention for eating disorders.
  • Promoting pro-recovery online support for children and young people with an eating disorder.

What has the government included in the green paper?

Since the green paper was written with the aim of producing recommendations which would apply to all mental health conditions, there are only a few specific references to eating disorders. The main proposals in the ‘Transforming children and young people’s mental health’ green paper are:

  • Encouraging every school and college to have a ‘designated senior mental health lead’ to oversee their approach to mental health and wellbeing and to improve links with NHS mental health services.
  • Setting up ‘mental health support teams’ working with schools and colleges, which would provide treatment for children and young people with mild to moderate conditions and promote mental wellbeing. These teams would be supervised by NHS staff and managed jointly by schools, colleges and the NHS.
  • Piloting a four-week maximum waiting time for all children and young people needing specialist NHS treatment for a mental health condition. (Children and young people with eating disorders are already covered by specific maximum waiting times targets, published in 2015 with the aim of country-wide implementation by 2020.)

The Department of Health has also published a short version of the green paper and created a YouTube video describing the key proposals.

Why is this green paper important?

The green paper sets out several new initiatives that together the government believes will significantly improve children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing. It focuses on key issues including early intervention and improving coordination between schools/colleges and NHS mental health services.

Next steps

The green paper communicates a set of proposals, rather than finalised policies. Whether these proposals become government policy and, if so, how they will be implemented, will be influenced by the response to the green paper from the public and organisations like Beat.

On Monday our Policy and Research Officer attended a meeting of mental health charities and professional bodies to discuss the green paper. Beat will be submitting a response to the consultation, informed by the views of Beat Ambassadors and other volunteers. We’ll publish this response on our website.

Anyone can share their views on the proposals in the green paper by completing the government’s online consultation. The consultation is open until Friday 2 March. You can follow discussion about it on Twitter using #youngmentalhealth.