Growing influence

Ella Rhodes reports on activity from the British Psychological Society's Policy team.

It has been a busy time for the British Psychological Society’s policy team, who have recently been involved in a number of meetings and discussions with cabinet, and shadow cabinet, ministers. Policy Advisor Nigel Atter has been in discussions about children and young people’s mental health with Education Secretary Gavin Williamson and Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth.

Among the recommendations that Atter and colleagues have shared with ministers include a funding boost for children’s mental health, a workforce investment strategy, and a significant increase in the number of applied psychologists working in schools. Atter was joined by three BPS members in his meeting with Ashworth in which they focused on the decline in children and young people’s mental health and psychological wellbeing.

Prior to that Atter met with Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education, and Nadine Dorries, Minister of State for Mental Health, Suicide Prevention and Patient Safety, along with other stakeholders. The meeting was instigated by MP Dr Lisa Cameron who called for cross-party collaboration on Children and Young People’s Mental Health and raised issues including the long waiting times for treatment.
Atter spoke on behalf of the BPS to highlight the importance of early intervention and prevention. Recent statistics show approximately 50,000 referrals to children’s mental health services in October 2020 alone, and approximately 300,000 children in contact with mental health services. He also met with Shadow Secretary of State for Education Kate Green MP and Cat Smith MP, Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office) (Young People and Voter Engagement), as part of a roundtable after a meeting with Labour MP Emma Hardy on the subject.

Atter said that these meetings showed that the policy team’s impact and influence was growing, and that the BPS was prioritising building relationships and communicating its agenda on children and young people’s mental health. ‘We recently had our fourth meeting with Jon Ashworth so it’s great to be maintaining that relationship, and the fact that we are meeting with front benchers is really encouraging. These meetings also enable us to interact with the other stakeholders present too, which means we can share our message and build networking links with those organisations.’

The policy team has also written to Williamson about educational attainment, drafted parliamentary questions for Shadow Minister for Schools Wes Streeting, and are working on a response to Andrea Leadsom’s early years review.

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