Cole-Hamilton sets out plans for counsellors in every school

At the start of Children's Mental Health Week which runs from 7th-13th February, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has accused the SNP of failing in a promise to make counselling services available to every pupil in Scotland and set out his plans to tackle a backlog in CAMHS services stretching over two years. 

Mr Cole-Hamilton is now putting forward proposals developed alongside the party’s mental health spokesperson and practitioner Jane Alliston, which include:  

  • Mental health first aiders at every stage of education,  
  • a further rollout of counsellors to ensure access in all schools,  
  • to lower the referral bar for young people from deprived communities as we know those at risk of multiple adverse experiences need access to early support
  • a single point of contact for CAMHS waiting lists so GPs/families can understand if remaining on it offers a real opportunity for care.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said: 

“If your kid were to break their arm you’d expect them to be seen the same day but if they say they are experiencing mental distress, they are directed into some of the longest queues in the NHS. Too often these waits turn distress into crisis. The reality of CAMHS is that you don’t get a referral unless critical, meaning demand is already understated. 

“Successive Health Secretaries have spent years trying to spin a positive tale even as waits for young people get longer and longer. They should take a long hard look at themselves. 

“My party has championed the cause of Scotland’s mental health, securing £120m in last year’s budget but it is clear that this is just the beginning of what is necessary. We need a detailed timeline to clear CAMHS waiting lists backed up with fresh funds for mental health services and more local and accessible services and practitioners. 

"Scottish Liberal Democrats put forward a motion which was backed by the Scottish Parliament to declare a mental health emergency. The Government need to act like it and give young people new hope for the future.” 

Jane Alliston said:

“In 2022, Scotland has a chance to do things differently. After a pandemic in which young people have sacrificed a lot to keep others safe, we should be ensuring that they get the support they need now. That means counsellors at every stage of education with the skills to help those in need and ensure that problems are picked up early. 

“We also need to give young people a single point of contact who can provide support, direct them to the appropriate services and signpost other options too. They shouldn’t just have to go back to their GP to be told they’re still on a two-year waiting list." 

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