We want young people who require support to be able to access it quickly, for that support to be of a good standard, and for there to be a continuity in the provision, but the findings of our consultation and our experiences as Welsh Youth Parliament Members tells us we are a long way away from achieving that.
In fact, we think we should be pushing further, by looking to provide young people who haven’t reached out with support, such as school counsellor services, as a preventative measure and to help tackle stigma. We feel this would result in a higher percentage of young people reaching out for help.
Stigma around accessing support at places of learning is a big problem. Steps need to be taken to tackle stigma, but places of learning also need to create environments where young people feel comfortable to talk. This is essential. Young people must have a positive first impression with accessing support or they may instead return to struggling on their own.
Again, these are themes which emerged in the first Welsh Youth Parliament's report back in 2020, which called for an increase in the amount of time counsellors are available to support young people and offer more support services where young people can remain anonymous. Despite there being an increase in funding from Welsh Government to expand on the schools counselling scheme, we don’t feel that enough progress has been made.
Resources need to be in place to deliver the support young people need. Many teachers and other professionals are already under a great deal of stress, so we think it’s important that the responsibility doesn’t fall on them alone, and that places of learning are able to bring in additional third-party support where appropriate. More needs to be done to support diverse groups of young people, to better understand the challenges they face. Training programmes for professionals who work with, and support young people should seek to address this.
There needs to be more touch points where young people are able to access help not only where they learn, but in the communities they live more widely.
The previous Children’s Commissioner for Wales advocated in their report ‘No Wrong Door’, that:
“Regions need to move rapidly towards a ‘no wrong door’ approach in responding to children and young people’s emotional wellbeing and mental health needs. This means that they should not keep being told that they are knocking on the wrong door when trying to access help. This could include early help panel or hub models, drop-in centres, models that make sure children and young people get the right help so that they don’t need to go away from home to receive specialist care, or plans for specialist residential care closer to home.”
Young people told us, and we agree, that more needs to be done here, and there needs to be consistency across the country.
"Make counselling more accessible to everyone with shorter waiting lists, and give more sessions for a longer period of time, so that you can go anytime like in the evening and on weekends as this might be the only time you feel comfortable going. Don’t just provide it in school and colleges."
Georgia Miggins - Welsh Youth Parliament, Learning Disability Wales