Supporting children and young people’s mental health

Children and young people mental health (Sport England)

The Alliance’s Policy Adviser Ben Jessup reflects on the key announcements within the Government’s recent Green Paper on Children and Young People’s Mental Health and considers how sport and recreation can support these.

The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt MP and the Education Secretary Justine Greening MP presented a Green Paper on Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental ​Health Provision to Parliament on Monday. This follows the Government’s Future in Mind report published in 2015. 

We were pleased to see that government referenced sport and recreation’s role in supporting children and young people’s mental wellbeing within the Green Paper, particularly after Emma Boggis, CEO of the Alliance, wrote to the Minister for Sport last month to reiterate the need for this to be recognised. 

The Green Paper highlighted Sporting Future capturing mental wellbeing as one of its five key outcomes as an example of existing cross-government support. It also recognised the value of Sport England’s Active Lives (Children and Young People) survey including questions relating to mental wellbeing when it was shared with schools earlier this year. 

More broadly, the Green Paper announced over £300 million of funding to improve local mental health support for children and young people, focusing on three key elements: 

  • Incentivising every school and college to establish a senior mental health lead to oversee prevention and support; 

  • The creation of new Mental Health Support Teams working directly with schools and colleges to give earlier access to services; 

  • Piloting a four-week waiting time for NHS children and young people’s mental health services. 

It is positive to see the government reaffirming their commitment to parity of esteem, to make sure that mental health is treated equally with physical health, though they may seek to address concerns around the timeline for delivery. 

The Green Paper declared that government will seek to roll out the above to 20-25% of the country by the end of 2022/23 – much slower action than many were calling for. 

The intervening period arguably presents a platform for the sector to again demonstrate how getting physically active can have wide-reaching benefits for individuals’ mental health. 

That being said, with government recognising that half of all mental health conditions begin before the age of 14, the paper was clearly focused on early intervention and prevention. 

As the sector works together to improve the availability, accessibility and quality of sport and recreation for children and young people, it is important that we all continue to go further in championing physical activity as a means to support young people’s mental wellbeing. 

The Alliance will continue to develop our work with government, mental health partners and signatories of the Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation alike as we advocate for physical activity based interventions and preventative measures moving forward. 

The Green Paper is now followed by a government consultation, and the Alliance will soon be reaching out to members as we look to collate feedback from across the sector to inform our response. 

Emma Boggis, CEO of the Sport and Recreation Alliance comments on the Green Paper. 

Emma Boggis reacts to Green Paper ()

You can read the Green Paper in full here