Theresa May unveils beefed-up mental health support for teachers as she eyes Number 10 legacy

Posted On: 
16th June 2019

Theresa May has unveiled a package of new measures to help teachers, social workers and health staff tackle the "devastating" toll of mental illnesses.

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The Prime Minister is looking to make a series of policy announcements before she leaves office.

The Prime Minister - who is looking to cement her legacy in Number 10 as Conservative leadership candidates jostle to replace her - will on Monday launch a new prevention plan aimed at increasing the mental health support services available to public bodies.

But Labour accused Mrs May of offering only "warm words" that would not address the "real crisis" in mental health services.

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Downing Street said the plan would include training for all new teachers to help them spot mental health problems in their pupils; extra cash for councils to "strengthen and deliver local suicide prevention plans"; and new professional standards for social workers to boost their knowledge of mental health issues.

The Government also vowed to provide extra support for mental health leads working in schools so that they can do more to help children struggling with self-harm.

Mrs May said: "Too many of us have seen first-hand the devastating consequences of mental illness, which is why tackling this burning injustice has always been a personal priority for me.

"But we should never accept a rise in mental health problems as inevitable."

She added: "It’s time to rethink how we tackle this issue, which is why I believe the next great revolution in mental health should be in prevention.

"The measures we’ve launched today will make sure at every stage of life, for people of all backgrounds, preventing mental illness gets the urgent attention it deserves."

The announcement from Downing Street comes amid reports of a Cabinet spat over Mrs May's plans to drastically boost education spending in her final days at Number 10.

According to the Sunday Telegraph, Mrs May is expected to seek Cabinet approval for a multi-billion pound funding injection for schools as early as Tuesday, but is facing resistance from the Treasury over the implications of the spending pledge on her successor.

The Prime Minister - who has officially resigned as Conservative Party leader but remains as Prime Minister for the next few weeks - has already committed to the UK to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 since she quit the Tory top job.

'FIT FOR MODERN SOCIETY'

Mrs May will on Monday chair a mental health roundtable at Number 10, bringing together figures including NHS boss Simon Stevens, Health Secretary Matt Hancock and key players from an independent review of the Mental Health Act commissioned last year.

That review looked at why a disproportionate number of people from black and minority ethnic groups are detained under the 1983 mental health legislation, amid a general rise in the numbers of people deprived of their liberty under the law over the past three decades.

Downing Street said ministers would now "overhaul the Mental Health Act to make it fit for modern society".

Professor Sir Simon Wessely, who has chaired the review of the act, said: "Theresa May deserves credit for drawing attention to those with the most severe mental illnesses yet who are the most overlooked."

But Shadow Health Secretary Barbara Keeley said: "Once again we hear warm words from the Prime Minister on mental health, but the reality is that mental health services are stretched to breaking point and people with mental health problems aren't getting the support they need.

"The Prime Minister is failing to address the real crisis in mental health. Training for teachers and other professionals is welcome but when we know thousands of children and young people are either turned away from mental health services or have to wait too long for treatment, it's clear that she's missing the real issue.

"This Tory government has cut local authority funding and failed to protect mental health budgets. Labour will invest more in mental health services and ring-fence budgets, so that funding reaches those who need support."