Citizens UK and NASUWT announce strategic partnership around schools-based counselling

Citizens UK, a people powered Community Organising charity, and NASUWT-The Teachers’ Union, have announced a new strategic partnership that will kick off by calling for the roll out of schools-based counselling across the UK.

Both organisations, along with British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), are calling on the UK Government to secure the statutory provision of school-based counselling in English primary schools, secondary schools and further education colleges.

Citizens UK and NASUWT share an overarching mission to take non-partisan action for the common good, with the partnership cementing the joint work over the past five years, one of which was the ‘Refugees Welcome Schools’ initiative that saw 23 schools commit to the program.

The campaign for schools-based counselling began in 2019, after local leaders in Tyne & Wear Citizens, a Citizens UK chapter, saw how young people in their communities were not getting the mental health services they needed. They then brought this motion to the NASUWT conference in April 2021 making it a national priority for the union.

In 2020, research showed that one in six children aged 5 to 19 years old were identified as having a probable mental disorder.[1]

However, 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, meaning many went without the support they needed.[2]

The roll out of schools-based counselling can help ensure children and young adults get access to support, filling in the ‘missing middle’ between the Government’s pilot Mental Health Support Teams (MHSTs) and child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).

A secondary school pupil who used schools-based counselling said“School counselling was like a weight being lifted off my shoulders. I was finally able to talk about my issues rather than keeping them to myself. Having the counsellor in school meant that she was just an email away, or I could drop in at break time if I needed someone there. My mental health is a lot better now than it was before, as she taught me how to cope. If I’m struggling now, I remember what we talked about and can help myself get through my difficult moments.”

Matthew Bolton, Citizens UK Executive Director said: “We are so pleased to announce our strategic partnership with NASUWT, which demonstrates how trade unions and Community Organising practices can work collaboratively to make change. With both Citizens UK and NASUWT agendas being driven by their powerful membership bases, the schools-based counselling campaign provides a basis for future joint work, demonstrating how important schools are as places of democratic action.”

Dr Patrick Roach, NASUWT General Secretary said: “We believe there are huge benefits for young people, school staff and the wider health service in having access to school-based counsellors. It is clear that the need for trained support is there and is growing. Investment in school-based counsellors and early intervention could help  to prevent many young people reaching crisis point.”