Through this fund education settings will be given flexibility in how they support the emotional health and wellbeing of children and young people and the staff working with them.
Michelle McIlveen set out details of the funding during a visit to Belfast Boys’ Model School.
The Minister said: “There is a growing body of evidence, which highlights that the adolescence and young adult years are peak periods for the first onset of mental illness. And the experience of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated this situation.
“That is why I’m providing further funding in response to the additional mental health and wellbeing needs of children and young people and education staff. It will give them the flexibility to provide additional support that will best meet their needs.
“This assistance will be provided to all schools, EOTAS and youth settings and they will be provided with guidance on how the funding can be used. This will enable education settings to enhance existing wellbeing programmes and/or implement new and innovative wellbeing initiatives that support pupils and/or staff and have a focus on adjusting to the world as impacted upon by COVID 19.”
The Department stepped in last year to provide a Wellbeing Fund and given the ongoing nature of the impact of COVID-19, the fund is being extended to 2021/22.
The Minister continued: “This is a significant investment which I know will be of benefit to pupils and staff alike. The funding can be used to provide various types of interventions including stress busting activities, emotional support, sports activities & equipment, wellbeing games and books & materials.
“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact on the mental health and wellbeing of people, and many school staff and their pupils are facing higher levels of anxiety and distress. Championing Emotional Health and Well-being was also raised as an ongoing priority within the Fair Start report. That is why I am providing as much support as possible, in the challenging months ahead.”