Monika Jephcott is CEO of Play Therapy UK (PTUK) is the UK’s leading play therapy professional organisation, with 1,650 therapists registered under the brand. Here, she explains how PTUK had their say on a pivotal charter which is set to change the face of mental health treatment for children in the UK…
In 2018, PTUK joined the All-Party Parliamentary Group on a Fit and Healthy Childhood to contribute alongside experts from other organisations to the production of two reports on child mental health in the UK. The Child Mental Health Charter emerged from these reports and calls upon the Government to put children at the heart of reforming the Mental Health Act in 2019.
The basis of the Charter is derived from a number of recommendations for improving the mental health support currently available to the UK’s children. The most important of these recommendations were used to form the Charter’s six key principles, the application of which will make a positive difference in the lives of children and their families by addressing significant defects in current policies:
1. Focus on the Needs of Children – The therapeutic requirements of children are hugely different from those of Young People and therefore these two groups should no longer be categorised together under the term ‘CYP’
2. Protect Children – At present, almost anyone can work therapeutically with children, which leads to unsafe and ineffective practice. It is crucial that any individual who works therapeutically with children must be registered through an independent government-approved agency such as the Professional Authority’s Accredited Register programme
3. Invest in a Properly Qualified Workforce – Standards for the training required to work therapeutically with children have been set at Level 7 by three leading professional bodies including PTUK. A similar benchmark needs to be in place across all professional organisations working in the Child Mental Health field.
4. Ensure Policy is Informed by the Best Available and Appropriate Evidence – Continuous practice-based evidence gathered over time provides a much more reliable ‘evidence base’ for working with children and it is this that should be used to inform practice and policy rather than the far less reliable sources traditionally used.
5. Focus on the Needs of Parents and Carers – High-quality support must be made available through schools for the parents and carers of children with SEND issues in order to better understand and support their child.
6. Making Policies Work – This can be achieved largely through the optimised allocation of funding and ‘joined-up working’ initiated and improved through the exchange of data.
PTUK is the Campaign Leaders for the Charter with myself and our Registrar Jeff Thomas meeting regularly with MPs in Westminster to present the case there. So far, we have achieved major success with the tabling of Early Day Motion #2285 which has been supported to date by 54 MPs. At our Reception to launch the Charter, supporters from many different organisations, MPs and the Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention came together to share expertise and discuss the urgent need for placing children at the centre of reforming the Mental Health Act.
Our next goal is for the six principles of the Charter to be included in the new Government’s Queen’s Speech followed by a Bill to enact legislation. We still need as much support as possible from professionals across the country to help drive the Charter forward. Please pledge your support by visiting childmentalhealthcharter.com and adding your name to the list of supporters, as an organisation or individual. You can also ask your constituency MP for their support in Parliament. For advice on how to do this please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Application of the Charter’s principles will ensure that a high-quality service with measured outcomes will be provided for the 20% of primary school children needing therapeutic support throughout the UK. By addressing this long-neglected policy area, our Government can truly make a positive difference in the lives of children and their families.