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Counsellors have been appointed to support pupils at every secondary school in Argyll and Bute.
A report reveals that the local authority has reached its target of having a counselling service available at all 10 of the area’s secondary schools by the end of January 2021.
A team leader, as well as a group of counsellors, took up their posts that month with the aim of supporting pupils at the schools with their mental health where needed.
The new counselling team members occupy the full-time equivalent of 6.5 posts with Argyll and Bute Council.
And a further post is also in place for primary school children aged 10 and over as a result of funding from the area’s alcohol and drug partnership.
The reports were to be discussed at a virtual meeting of the council’s community services committee yesterday (Thursday, March 11).
A report on the council’s education service performance from November to January said: ‘The team lead took up her post at the beginning of December and counsellors have been offered posts and all have accepted these positions with a start date of January 11, 2021.
‘The Educational Psychology Service and HSCP [health and social care partnership] managers have worked together with the research assistant and counselling service team lead to develop practice guidance, referral procedures and an evaluation framework for this newly developing service.
‘Head teachers have been updated on progress with referrals forms and service specification being circulated in January 2021. Dates for multiagency strategic group meetings have been set and core members identified.
‘The well qualified and experienced counsellors who have been appointed will provide a valuable tier one service, with clear routes for escalation of need to CAMHS [child and adolescent mental health services] in place where required.
‘From links with other local authorities, it appears that Argyll and Bute has been more successful than many in attracting a large number of suitably qualified applicants to deliver this service to our children and young people from the age of 10 years up.
‘Robust processes for evaluation have been built in from the outset to support reporting of outcomes on an ongoing basis.’
In another report, executive director Douglas Hendry outlined the process, which is part of a £286,000 investment in Argyll and Bute by the Scottish Government.
This will rise to £377,000 for each of the following three years.
Mr Hendry said: ‘Supporting the mental health and emotional wellbeing of children and young people is everyone’s business.
‘The benefits to the individual and to wider society of preventing problems from arising and intervening early are significant.
‘For schools, this can result in improvements in attainment, attendance and behaviour as well as happier, more confident and resilient pupils.’
He added: ‘Using the allocated funding, counsellors have now been employed to create an in-house service which is located within child health.
‘The appointed team leader is fulfilling this role on a 0.6 FTE [full-time equivalent] basis, bringing significant experience of mental health and social work as well as direct experience of collaborating with educational establishments. 6.5 FTE counsellors registered with the BACP [British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy] or equivalent are now in post.
‘The Alcohol and Drug Partnership has also provided funding for an additional post, to ensure there is a dedicated resource for primary children from age 10 years onwards.
‘This gives a total of 7.5 FTE counsellors to provide services for children and young people across our educational establishments.’