DUP MP Carla Lockhart has welcomed assurances from Education Minister Peter Weir that the Minister will be prioritising the mental health and wellbeing of those in the education sector. Mrs Lockhart had written to the Minister expressing concern at the rise in referrals for counselling within primary schools.
Commenting, Carla Lockhart MP said:
“The mental health and wellbeing of our children is of utmost importance and it is worrying to see the continuing demand for counselling services within local schools.
We need to prioritise meeting this need. The impact of COVID-19 on mental health cannot be underestimated, and when our schools return the support network and expert services need to be in place. Waiting lists cannot continue to grow but must be tackled.
It is welcome news that £5m has been allocated by my colleague Peter Weir to address this. School budgets, already facing pressure, cannot be expected to meet this demand without additional support from the Department. That is the message I have been hearing in consultation with local principals. The Minister recognises this and is to be commended for his initiative.
As schools return, children will face new challenges. Mental health must be at the forefront of the return to school programme. I will continue to work with Peter to ensure those in need of support get it, and that schools are supported in meeting this challenge.”