Westminster Education Forum

Since lockdown, we have been organising our full programme of conferences online. We will continue online until further notice, to ensure we play our part in helping our employees and delegates to remain safe during this time. We are pleased that so many key stakeholders, policymakers and other interested parties - both old friends and new delegates - are taking up the opportunity to discuss public policy issues and network at our impartial seminars. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time. So there are plenty of opportunities for you to join us if you haven’t already, from wherever you are. For booking-related queries, or information on speaking, please email us at info@forumsupport.co.uk or contact us using one of the following numbers: +44 (0)7951044809 / +44 (0)7503591880 / +44 (0)7538736244.
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Priorities for children’s mental health - learning from the pandemic, holistic and intersectional approaches, support in schools, and service recovery and preparing for the future

Morning, Wednesday, 2nd December 2020

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference will assess priorities for improving children and young people’s mental health provision in England - particularly in the wake of COVID-19.

We expect discussion to focus on:

  • what can be learned from the response to the pandemic that can inform policy on mental health and the services to support it into the future
  • strategies and policy priorities for supporting a whole-system recovery for child mental health support services

The agenda:

  • Assessing today’s child mental health provision in England
  • Tackling the challenges for child mental health support in the wake of COVID-19
  • Use of mental health technology for providing remote support - developments and limitations
  • Serving the mental health needs of groups facing specific issues - fostering an intersectional and holistic approach to provision of support
    • Providing effective support for children with experiences of domestic abuse
    • Children from Black & Asian communities and their journey to positive mental health
    • Supporting the mental health needs of children with SEND
    • Adapting modular approaches to meet complex mental health needs
  • Securing the recovery of children’s services post-pandemic
  • Next steps for child mental health services - resources and rising demand, support in schools, and fostering a joined-up approach to provision
  • Supporting child mental health - key policy priorities going forward

The context at a glance:

The impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of children and young people

  • availability of support services with temporary suspension of routine Ofsted inspections, and local authorities having relaxed their duties towards children in care
  • disproportionate effect of the pandemic on certain groups, and reported increases in domestic abuse and violence
  • reports of drops in referrals to mental health services across England

Policy responses

  • PHE guidance on supporting children and young people’s mental health during the pandemic
  • The Children’s Commissioner’s recent call for putting children first in future lockdowns, and for schools to be the first to open and last to close, followed by the Prime Minister declaring getting children back to school ‘a moral duty’ and suggesting pubs and restaurants would be closed before schools in the event of further lockdowns
  • The Education Committee inquiry into the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on education and children’s services, and their capacity to protect vulnerable children
  • Emergency legislation relaxing the responsibilities of local authorities towards children in care during the pandemic
  • Funding of £3.1m for specialist services helping children affected by domestic abuse at this time, and increased support for child protection announced at the Downing Street Hidden Harms Summit
  • An increase in £12m for additional support for children and young people at increased risk during the pandemic

Wider policy developments

  • The new Relationships and Sex Education curriculum being rolled out from September, and its focus on mental wellbeing as well as physical health
  • The Link Programme, which has aimed to improve collaboration between schools and the NHS in in the delivery of mental health support services to young people
  • The forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review, and possible allocations to support the recovery and future running of the mental health of children and young people
  • Commitments for improving the mental health of children and young people included in the NHS Long Term Plan, which builds on the earlier Five Year Forward View for Mental Health:
    • increasing access to NHS-funded mental health services or mental health support via school and college Mental Health Support Teams
    • ensuring that funding for children and young people’s mental health services grows faster than overall NHS funding and total mental health spending
    • increasing funding for setting up new Mental Health Support Teams across the country to further embed mental health support in schools and colleges
    • boosting investment in eating disorder services for children and young people

Key areas for discussion:

Learning from the experience of lockdown and its impact on child mental health

  • maintaining contact - how well the system fared with staying in touch with vulnerable children remotely, and the role of mental health technology and online services into the future
  • effectiveness of support - how well government initiatives helped mitigate worsening mental health in vulnerable children and young people, and what more might be needed moving forward
  • ensuring that vulnerable children do not fall through the cracks - and are able to access mental health support to cope with ongoing pressures

Service recovery

  • likely rise in demand - addressing the capacity of mental health support services to respond to the easing of lockdown restrictions
  • future lockdowns - how stakeholders and policymakers can work to ensure that, as far as possible, children’s mental health needs are taken into account - particularly at short notice and a local level


  • the role of the education system - in providing mental health support for children, including the stable routine and social interaction with peers provided by school attendance
  • Relationships and Sex Education - the likely impact of the new curriculum on young people’s mental wellbeing, and what can be learnt from the schools that have already began teaching

Serving the mental health needs of groups facing specific issues

How a more holistic and intersectional approach to the provision of mental health support can be better built into the system going forward, looking in particular at support for children with:

  • experience of domestic abuse - following a spike in cases of domestic abuse during the lockdown as well as recent increases
  • ethnic minority backgrounds - including increased support at a time of the disproportionate health and economic effects of the pandemic on ethnic minority communities
  • SEND - in the face of worsening anxiety during the pandemic and consequent loss of daily routine, and with emergency legislation affecting access of some children their EHC plan support

Funding, coordination and meeting policy commitments

  • funding - resourcing children’s services and child mental health support services, with the predicted economic downturn resulting from the pandemic, and priorities for the Spending Review
  • joined-up policy - including strategies for a coordinated, multi-agency approach between schools, the NHS, and charities to tackle mental health concerns
  • health policy implementation - next steps for meeting commitments in the NHS Long Term Plan

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by officials from the Department of Health and Social Care; the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport; Ofsted; and the National Audit Office. Also due to attend are representatives from Cambridge and Ely Child Contact Centres; Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust; The Dalai Lama Centre for Compassion; Off The Record, Bristol; School Library Association; SENse Learning; University of Birmingham; Wayfinder Community Interest Company.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

Keynote Speakers

Dr Prathiba Chitsabesan

Associate National Clinical Director, Children and Young People’s Mental Health, NHS England

Senior speaker confirmed from Ofsted


James Sunderland MP

Baroness Doreen E Massey of Darwen


Nick Harrop

Head of External Affairs, YoungMinds

Sally Thomas

Policy Specialist, Gender Equality and Child Mental Health, National Education Union

Gavin Freeguard

Programme Director, Head of Data and Transparency, Institute for Government

Alun Ebenezer

Headteacher, The Fulham Boys School

Renuka Jeyarajah-Dent

Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Special Projects, Coram

Dr Jasmine Chin

Clinical Lead, Coram

Catherine Roche

Chief Executive Officer, Place2Be

Dr Arnon Bentovim

Child and Family Psychiatrist and Director, Child and Family Training