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More counsellors to provide support to Scottish school pupils

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More counsellors to provide support to Scottish school pupils

Professional counselling services will be available to all secondary school pupils who need support by September next year.

Agreement has been reached between the Scottish Government and COSLA on the detailed allocation of £60m over four years.

Counselling services currently delivered by qualified and registered counsellors through Pupil Equity or Scottish Attainment funding will continue, enabling local authorities to reallocate those funds to other priorities to help close the attainment gap.

School counsellors help support young people’s emotional, behavioural and mental health and they will also be available to pupils during school holidays.

The announcement comes as figures show the number of children and teenagers waiting for specialist mental health care in Scotland has risen sharply in the last 12 months.

By the end of June this year, 584 young people were waiting for specialist care, which was up from 146 in June, 2018.

Fewer patients waiting for an appointment through Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) were seen within the Scottish Government’s target time of 18 weeks.

The Scottish Government first announced last September that it would be investing more than £60m in additional school counselling services across Scotland, but it came under fire for failing to provide any detail on the implementation.

Mental Health Minister Clare Haughey said: “Children and young people can face many issues growing up and must have the right support available at the right time.

“Providing every secondary school with access to at least one counsellor by next year is a significant step forward in our package of measures to improve the mental health support available for children and young people.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition said: “This is very welcome news and is a vital step in improving the mental health of our children and young people through early intervention.

“School counsellors help support young people’s emotional, behavioural and mental health. Importantly, pupils will also have access to counsellors during school holidays, providing vital continuity of care.

“It has been estimated that the cost of five sessions of counselling is equivalent to just one contact with child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).

"Therefore, investing a fraction of the mental health budget on school-based counselling services helps to keep the individual in school and avoid an unnecessary and often stigmatising mental health diagnoses, as well as reducing the burden on stretched and costly CAMHS provision."

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