London’s programme of Mental Health in Schools Teams (MHSTs) was established in 2017, through a Trailblazer Programme. The teams have remained in place throughout the pandemic, working in different ways to continue to deliver services to young people and their families to support mental health needs.
This report draws together learning from MHSTs’ collective experience, in particular examples of innovation and best practice gained during the periods of lockdown associated with Covid-19, as well as challenges.
There are challenges common to most if not all of the programmes underway in London, and these no doubt will affect future waves of MHSTs. Contractual challenges are described here, alongside significant problems relating to recruitment and retention of staff. Many areas have reported repeatedly advertising posts or losing staff once training is completed. Future waves of funding allocations have been agreed, to ensure that the good work of MHSTs is spread wider across London. There is an opportunity, before these future MHSTs are established, not only to ensure that positive practice is embedded in future practice, but that challenges are addressed so that others do not have to navigate the same difficulties.
Recommendations cover the need to:
- Target specific groups
- Review borough governance to ensure adequate representation
- Ensure a whole school approach
- Use a blended model to deliver services
- Maintain the lockdown innovations
- Form networks of MHSTs across ICS areas
- Share resources
- Revisit the funding and recruitment/retention model
- Ensure effective clinical supervision
- Ensure governance and terms of reference are in place
- Work closely with partners from the voluntary sector
- Consider what can be done to support schools that are not covered by the team