Labour mental health plans welcomed by CentreForum commission

19 January 2015

The CentreForum Mental Health Commission warmly welcomes proposals announced by Labour today for improving the mental wellbeing of the nation.

The party's proposals closely match those put forward by CentreForum in 2014.

Labour leader Ed Miliband says he will commit the next government to a radical improvement in mental health provision with more emphasis on prevention, early intervention and better support - particularly for young people - as part of Labour’s plan to sustain and improve the NHS.

The full press release can be accessed here.

Since the commission published its final report last July, the Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to "look carefully" at CentreForum's recommendations.

The government has also established a taskforce to examine child and adolescent mental health. This followed a Liberal Democrat announcement that the party will commit to increasing mental health research funding beyond 2015.

At the party’s recent autumn conference in Glasgow, the Liberal Democrats adopted ten of the CentreForum recommendations as part their pre-manifesto.

Eight of the proposals were also contained in the NHS Five Year Forward View.

Paul Burstow MP, former Care and Support Minister and Chair of the CentreForum Mental Health Commission, said:

"The key challenge that the commission identified is resources. If parity of esteem between physical and mental is to be delivered we need parity of rights, outcomes and resources. With mental health accounting for 23% of all disability and costing the UK over £100 billion a year what is required is serious commitments to investing in better mental health."

Professor Stephen Lee, Chief Executive of CentreForum, said:

"It is fantastic to see cross-party consensus emerge on such an important issue. Creating parity of esteem between mental and physical health will help end the stigma associated with mental health issues and improve people's wellbeing. We warmly welcome the Labour party's stance."


Response to parents survey by NASUWT and ComRes

9 January 2015

A survey of parents, carried out by ComRes and commissioned by the NASUWT teachers' union has found that fewer than a third of parents (29%) check the league table position when choosing a school, with most parents (54%) looking online for general information and talking to parents of current pupils (53%).

Commenting on the findings, James Kempton, Associate Director, Education and Social Policy at CentreForum said:

"Parents access information on school performance from a variety of sources. This is a good thing because no single method of assessing how well a school is performing can possibly capture every facet of what that school does.

"When the new league table regime is introduced in 2016, secondary schools will be encouraged to focus on the progress of every child through the incentive of a higher league table position. Knowing that schools will be rewarded for focusing on every child’s education is something that parents of prospective pupils will want to hear. It will hopefully create greater confidence in league tables and make them more useful to parents."

CentreForum pushed for reform of school league tables in its August 2013 report 'Measuring what matters'. The report argued that the longstanding five A*-C GCSE threshold measure, by which secondary schools' performance in England has been ranked since 1992, should be replaced by an eight subject progress measure reflecting pupils' development over time.

CentreForum's 'Progress 8' policy was adopted by the coalition government in October 2013.


The NASUWT survey also found:

  • the overwhelming majority of parents (87%) are satisfied or very satisfied with the quality of their child’s teachers;
  • more than 9 out of 10 parents (95%) agree that it is important that children are taught by teachers who are professionally qualified;
  • location was the top priority for over two thirds of parents (67%) when choosing a school;
  • almost three quarters of parents (73%) agreed there should be much stronger regulations over how much schools are allowed to charge for the services they provide to pupils, with over a third (36%) of parents saying the cost of educational visits is not affordable, 33% saying the same about school uniforms and a fifth (20%) for the cost of equipment.

 The full survey can be accessed here.


More than half of schools let down by lack of mental health support

29 December 2014

"First of its kind" think tank survey welcomed by the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb among other senior figures

Children and young people are being left without the mental health support they need, leaving schools struggling to cope, according to an England wide survey of head teachers published today.

The research conducted by the CentreForum Mental Health Commission, chaired by former Care and Support Minister Paul Burstow MP, has identified gaps in the treatment of mental health needs in schools across England.

The survey reveals that 54% of head teachers find their local mental health services ineffective in supporting pupils.  It also reveals that almost half of head teachers believe that increasing workloads are affecting their ability to identify pupils' mental health problems at a time when mental health problems in schools are on the rise.

In addition, the survey found:  

  • Confidence in child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) were even lower among head teachers at pupil referral units (37%) and special educational needs schools (43%)
  • 47% of all schools surveyed say that an increased workload is lessening their ability to identify mental health problems at the earliest possible point.
  • 65% of schools do not assess the severity of mental health needs among their pupils. Yet where such screening tools are used, 85 per cent of schools reported it to be effective.

Nick Clegg MP, Deputy Prime Minister, said:

"Schools would never ignore a child with a physical health problem, so the same should be true of mental ill health too.

"Early intervention is crucial in tackling mental health problems, which is why school leaders have a major role to play.

"In government we have already set up a cross government mental health task force to evaluate current provision, and the Liberal Democrat manifesto will set out our plans to ensure that children and young people can access the services they need."

Norman Lamb MP, Care and Support Minister, said:

"I am committed to improving mental health care for children and young people - that's why I've formed a task force to advise on improvements. Crucially, members include experts from the education sector and we're engaging young people directly to get their views.

"We've also invested £3 million in MindEd, a website to help anyone working with children - from teachers to dinner ladies and sports coaches to Scouts leaders - to make sure children get the mental health support they need."

Paul Burstow MP, Chair of the CentreForum Mental Health Commission, said:

"With three children in every classroom experiencing mental health problems, teachers need the right training and support to identify issues early and ensure children and young people get the help they need to recover and thrive.

"The results of this survey suggest schools and young people are often let down and left to fend for themselves.  With a price tag of up to £60,000 per child per year the lifelong impact of mental illness on young people and their families is something we can't afford to ignore."

The survey is the first of its kind and follows a 12 month review by CentreForum Mental Health Commission on the state of mental health in England. 

Since the commission published its final report in July 2014, the Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to "look carefully" at CentreForum's recommendations.

The government has also established a task force to examine child and adolescent mental health.  This followed a Liberal Democrat announcement that the party will commit to increasing mental health research funding beyond 2015.

At the party's autumn conference in Glasgow, the Liberal Democrats adopted all of the CentreForum commission's recommendations as party policy.

Professor Dame Sue Bailey, Chair of Children and Young People's Mental Health Coalition, said:  

"The findings from this report are both important and timely. School is a critical environment where young people should be able to flourish across all domains of their lives.

"The gaps and concerns this report so clearly identifies reinforce the need to provide young people with the help, support and self-empowerment to develop and maintain resilience to say mentally healthy in order to achieve and develop to their full potential."


1. The survey also finds:

  • One in ten schools report that no mental health and wellbeing training is available to staff.
  • As many as one in ten state schools report behavioural and emotional problems among their pupils, and the problem is though to be getting worse each year. Head teachers say that environmental factors including economic pressure, parental separation and the impact of social media are to blame.
  • On the positive side, 81% of schools raise awareness of mental health and wellbeing on a routine basis.

2. The Chief Medical Officer previously found that three quarters of vulnerable pupils miss out on mental health support. See Chief Medical Officer's Annual Report 2012, 'Our Children Deserve Better: Prevention Pays', Department of Health, 2012

3. The CentreForum report 'Perceptions of wellbeing and mental health in England's secondary schools: a cross sectional study' can be accessed here.

Earmarking tax revenue for the NHS won't guarantee increased spending, think tank warns

24 December 2014 

Earmarking specific tax revenue to narrow the projected £30 billion funding gap* in the NHS has major flaws, a new report from CentreForum argues.

The report studies the merits of so-called 'strong hypothecation', where a particular tax funds an entire service, and 'weak hypothecation', where tax revenues are notionally earmarked for an area of government expenditure.

It concludes that strong hypothecation is the more viable of the two because it promotes accountability, transparency and trust in government. Weak hypothecation, on the other hand, is described in the report as having "significant disadvantages".

An example of weak hypothecation is Labour MP Frank Field's proposal to increase National Insurance and then allocate the revenue raised to the NHS. The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has made a similar argument.

But CentreForum says that such measures would not guarantee increased government expenditure, because any subsequent spending reviews would not treat the earmarked revenue as additional to the health budget. The absence of a guarantee would lower public trust in the government that introduced the policy, the report notes.

The think tank also highlights conflicting political motives among proponents of hypothecated taxation. It points out that while those on the left support earmarked tax increases as a means of raising revenue for the NHS, proponents on the right consider it an opportunity for a fundamental rethink on how the NHS should be paid for.

Conservative peer Lord Finkelstein, for example, has emphasised the role that strong hypothecation could play in deciding "how much healthcare we should offer people free at the point of use".

The report says this indicates that the right's solution to the NHS funding gap is at odds with the left's.

It adds that strong hypothecation, while good for transparency, will make health expenditure dependent on macroeconomic shocks and cycles, rather than health need or demand.

India Keable-Elliott, Economics Researcher at CentreForum, said:

"Talking abour earmarking tax X for increased spending in area Y may be good politics, but it is pretty awful policy. Raising National Insurance to fund an increase in the NHS budget will not guarantee increased spending because cuts can be made elsewhere."

"Funding the NHS entirely through a single earmarked tax is more credible in theory. But it will leave NHS spending levels at the whim of macroeconomic shocks and cycles rather than need or demand for services."

Professor Stephen Lee, Chief Executive at CentreForum, said:

"There are big choices to be made around funding health, particularly when costs and demand for services are increasing so rapidly. If hypothecated taxation is pursued as government policy, then politicians need to be clear about its implications."

* * By 2020/21, the NHS could face an annual funding gap of £30 billion. Source: NHS England