In 2018, Citizens UK heard from pupils, parents and teachers in the North East who highlighted how existing services often failed to meet the psychological needs of children and young people.
In 2020, one in six children aged 5 to 19 years old were identified as having a probable mental disorder. Unlike in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, there is no statutory requirement for, or provision of, school-based counselling in England, leaving some pupils in England without access to a counsellor. 
Approximately a quarter of GP referrals to UK child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) were rejected in 2018/19 on the grounds that their symptoms were not severe enough.  Then, in 2019, the UK Government began piloting Mental Health Support Teams (MHSTs) in England who would work across schools, supporting them to develop low-intensity interventions for pupils experiencing mild to moderate mental health difficulties. We believe School-based counselling can fill the 'missing middle' between MHSTs and CAMHS as it is a proven intervention for children and young people experiencing psychological distress and has also been shown to minimise pressure on CAMHS services.
Citizens UK is working in partnership with the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) and the teachers’ union NASUWT to campaign for the statutory provision of school-based counselling in English schools and further education colleges.
Citizens UK is calling on the UK Government to secure the statutory provision of school-based counselling in English primary schools, secondary schools and further education colleges that is:
- Cooperative: Beginning with a commitment to early years mental health education, the provision of counselling should be situated strategically on a continuum of intervention and support. The provision of counselling can take different forms according to the child’s preference (digital wellbeing tools, telephone counselling, face-to-face sessions at school or external venues).
- Collaborative: Counsellors should liaise internally with their school (Mental Health Lead, Family Liaison Officer, senior management team) and with external agencies (social services, police, local education authority), so that provision is sensitive to the child’s family dynamics, the impact of social determinants and the demography of the school catchment area.
- Consistent: Counselling should be provided by those trained on a nationally recognised course, registered with a professional body for reasons of ethical oversight, training and supervision, and experienced in working with primary school-age-children.
- According to the British Association of Counselling Psychotherapists Children and Young Peoples (CYP) Competence Framework, the minimum level of qualification and experience required for being a school-based counsellor is a Diploma in Higher Education in Counselling (Level 5).
- Citizens UK believes this provision will cost £516 million per year.
- As of July 2022, there are 10.2 million young people in English primary schools, secondary schools and further education colleges (9 million pupils in primary and secondary education in England, and a further 1.2 million students in further education.
- In 2022, one in six children aged 5 to 19 years were identified as having a probable mental disorder. This means that 1.7 million young people in England could require counselling.
- Pupils normally attend an average of six sessions of counselling. This comes to 10.2 million counselling sessions annually.
- A counsellor will work 18 sessions per week. A full-time counsellor will work a maximum of 46 weeks. This means that 12,318 counsellors would need to be employed
- According to the British Association of Counselling Psychotherapists Children and Young Peoples (CYP) Competence Framework, the minimum level of qualification and experience required for being a school or college-based counsellor is a Diploma in Higher Education in Counselling (Level 4).
- According to the National Joint Council for Local Government Services 2021/22 pay scale:
- A newly qualified counsellor (NJC SCP 17) would earn £24,920 per annum. Paying 12,318 counsellors would cost £307 million
- A BACP accredited counsellor (NJC SCP 27) would earn £31,895 per annum. Paying 12,318 counsellors would cost £393 million
- If National Insurance contributions, employer pension contribution and the costs of training, transport and supervision are estimated to total £10,000 per counsellor per annum, this would add £123 million to the costs.
- This means the cost of employing 12,318 counsellors would come to:
▪ £430 million per annum (for newly qualified counsellors).
▪ £516 million per annum (for BACP accredited counsellors).
This compares with the £1.3 billion spent on CAMHS services in 2020.*
The wider economic costs of mental illness in England (mental health services, lost productivity at work and reduced quality of life) have been estimated at £105.2 billion each year.
*The NHS budget in 2020 was £148.7 billion, of which 14% (£20.8 billion) was spent on mental health. According to the most publicly available statistics, CAMHS spending constitutes 6.7% of the overall mental health spend, or £1.3 billion.
Brief History of the Campaign
Living Well Report read here.
NEAT Report read here.
Nick Brown MP recognising Tyne & Wear Citizens
Paul Bristow recognising Peterborough Citizens:
The Minister of State’s response (Will Quince MP, Colchester)
Watch the recording of the debate which started at 5pm here.
View the map of the results to date: here.
Key Leaders for this Campaign
Citizens UK is a diverse alliance of civil society organisations committed to working together toward the common good.
Saidul Haque, Organiser
Sebastien Chapleau, Organiser
Fran Moss, Organiser
Dilraj Kaur, Organiser