Mental health and education were key pillars of today’s Queen’s Speech. We welcome the commitment to bring forward draft legislation to reform and modernise the Mental Health Act. This is a key opportunity to improve the care and treatment of children and young people detained under the Act. However, it needs to be ensured that the rights of children and young people are protected and promoted within the legislation, and that it brings an end to the disproportionate use of the Act among racialised communities. The Coalition will be working with its members to make sure that this happens.

But reforming legislation in itself is not enough to improve mental health support for children and young people. System wide investment, particularly in early intervention support, is needed to make sure that children and young people do not reach crisis point. The Government must seize the opportunity to create a truly supportive mental health system for all infants, children and young people through their proposed ten-year Mental Health and Wellbeing Plan.

The newly announced Schools Bill seeks to ensure every child fulfils their potential. A key aspect of the reforms will be strengthening school attendance, through requiring schools to publish an attendance policy and establishing a compulsory registers for children in school. We are clear that any work that is undertaken on school attendance must focus on creating safe and inclusive school environments and should prioritise addressing the causes of persistent absence from school such as mental health.

Author: Charlotte Rainer