Thousands more children to benefit from mental health support in schools

30 September 2021

More children will be able to gain access to specialist mental health support in schools, thanks to the expansion of services in Sussex.

At the moment, more than 42,000 children benefit from Mental Health Support Teams based in schools across West Sussex, East Sussex and Brighton and Hove. Over the next three years that figure will increase to 120,000 as more teams are rolled out.

The Mental Health Support Teams (MHSTs) are provided by the Sussex Health and Care Partnership. This comprises NHS and local authorities working in collaboration, including Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. Sussex Partnership provides specialist mental health and learning disability services across the South East.

The expansion of the service comes as part of a £6.3million funding boost to specialist mental health services in Sussex. Teams will provide support to primary, secondary schools and colleges offering interventions within an education setting to those with mild to moderate mental health and emotional wellbeing needs. They will also support schools to develop their whole school or college approach to mental health and wellbeing. They will give timely advice to school and college staff, liaising with external specialist services, to help children and young people get the right support and stay in education

Dr Alison Wallis, Clinical Director for Children and Young People’s Services at Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust said: “The last 18 months during the pandemic has shone a light on the amount of strain children and young people in our community have been put under, through no fault of their own.

“I’m delighted that we are part of the roll out as these extra teams in schools are part of a partnership. Our Educational Mental Health Practitioners will be able to provide preventative and supportive measures on a variety of common issues that young people might be facing. Whether it be coping with exam stress, social media anxiety or topics like body confidence, our MHSTs will provide a vital support to those who need it the most.”

In September 2019, six MHSTs were introduced in Sussex; three teams in East Sussex, one in Brighton & Hove, and two teams in West Sussex who each cover a set of schools. Three more teams are now being introduced in Hastings, Worthing and Mid Sussex as of the start of the new term, with a further four teams coming on board in September 2022. By August 2024 more than half of school children in Sussex will have access to MHSTs.

Nigel Jupp, Cabinet Member for Learning and Skills at West Sussex County Council, said: “Thanks to this strong partnership working, approximately 15,000 school children in Crawley and Arun already have access to this one-on-one mental health support. This is currently being expanded to help children in Mid Sussex and Worthing and by 2024, these specialist teams will work with over half of West Sussex schools, enhancing the provision already in place for all schools.”

Cllr Bob Standley, Lead Member for Education and Inclusion, Special Educational Needs and Disability at East Sussex County Council, said: “The past 18 months have posed many challenges to the younger members of our community, particularly when it comes to mental health and emotional wellbeing. 

“I am delighted that through positive partnership working, more mental health support will be offered in more of our schools. 

 “The introduction of specialist Mental Health Support Teams into additional schools and the post 16 sector in East Sussex will help ensure vital support is available to more of our young people when they need it.”