Dear Health Secretary Therese Coffey & Education Secretary Kit Malthouse 


Congratulations on your recent appointments. We are writing to urge you to make a joint commitment to rolling out Mental Health Support Teams in all schools and colleges in England.   


There is currently a crisis in children and young people’s mental health. Approximately 1 in 6 children aged 5 to 16 have a probable mental health disorder, resulting in health, social and economic impacts that will last for decades to come.  


Children and young people’s mental health services receive less than 1% of NHS England funding, yet referrals to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) rose 134% from 2019/20 to 2020/21, and emergency care presentations are up 80% as children and young people and their families find they have nowhere else to turn. 


Children and young people can wait up to two years to access specialist support and treatment, with only around 1 in 4 who require treatment being seen each year. 


Sustained levels of demand and unmet need are impacting on children and young people’s educational attainment and therefore on their futures. An August 2022 poll by Barnardo’s revealed 49% of parents of children with a mental health condition have noticed a drop in their child’s concentration and ability to focus on schoolwork. 


The crisis in children and young people's mental health threatens to affect the prospects of a generation, but we know that schools and colleges play a vital role through Mental Health Support Teams (MHSTs). MHSTs are positioned to identify vulnerable or at-risk children and young people, provide early intervention, fill gaps in provision and identify those in crisis.  


Barnardo’s polling found 76% of children and young people believed that they would benefit from more mental health support in their school or college but only 34% had access. 


We urge you to continue the cross-departmental working that has led to the MHST programme, and to prioritise the health and wellbeing of children and young people by supporting Barnardo’s call for every child and young person to have access to a Mental Health Support Team in their school or college. Current government plans to ensure that 35% of schools have an MHST by 2023 will leave 6.5 million children and young people without access, increases inequality in access to services and leaves the future for children and young people, teachers and MHST staff uncertain.   


Children and young people are experiencing a mental health crisis threatening their futures, committing to MHSTs in every school is a vital step in identifying those in need and providing early, accessible support.   


Barnardo’s and signatories