Evaluating the impact of Place2Be's primary school counselling service

26 Apr 2018

Place2Be is a children’s mental health charity that provides in-school support and training to improve the emotional wellbeing of pupils, families, and staff in primary and secondary schools. Founded in 1994, by 2016/17 Place2Be’s services were reaching 116,000 pupils across 282 primary and secondary schools in the UK.   Mental health problems affect a significant number of children and young people in the UK. An estimated one in ten children and young people aged 5-16 in the UK have a mental health condition. Mental health problems can have a significant impact on children and young people’s lives, and without effective intervention can damage their long-term prospects

Place2Be asked Pro Bono Economics to assess the value for money of its one-to-one counselling service in primary schools. The study looked at the improvement in mental health of pupils from 251 primary schools, covering 4,548 children who had received one-to-one support from Place2Be counsellors over the school year 2016/17. Dr Allan Little, our PBE volunteer authored the report. We would like to thank Allan for his excellent work on this report.  Our analysis is intended to provide insight into the economic case for in-school provision of this type of service and to support commissioning decisions.

Key findings:

Our analysis of the counselling scheme in 2016/17 shows that: 

  • Providing counselling services in primary school could lead to improved outcomes in the form of reduced rates of truancy, exclusion, smoking, depression, and crime, and also higher rates of employment and wages. 
  • Every £1 invested in the service in 2016/17 results in benefits of £6.20 in terms of improved long-term outcomes.
  • The estimated benefit of counselling is £25.9m for all the children who received counselling in 2016/17 compared to a cost of £4.2m for the service.
  • The potential benefit per child from counselling is just over £5,700 per child, including a saving of over £2,000 per child for government.

Overall, we consider that our analysis shows the potential for counselling services in primary schools to generate significant economic benefits resulting from improved outcomes for children in adolescence and adulthood.

Andy Haldane, Chief Economist at the Bank of England and Co-Founder and Trustee at Pro Bono Economics, said:

“An estimated one in ten children and young people in the UK have a mental health condition. Without effective intervention, these conditions can have a significant impact on their life chances and result in significant long-term costs. These costs arise from a range of adverse outcomes for the individual, such as reduced earnings and increased government spending on education, social care, and youth and criminal justice.”

“Charities tell us that results from Pro Bono Economics reports help them to truly understand the impact of their services. This report is a powerful example of our work in action. The analysis of this Place2Be scheme shows the potential for counselling services in primary schools to generate significant economic benefits to children in later life. The analysis in this report is intended to contribute to increased understanding of the value of this type of intervention in primary schools and to help support commissioning decisions.”

 Catherine Roche, Chief Executive of Place2Be said:

“Place2Be has been providing mental health support in primary schools for almost 24 years. This incredibly helpful new economic analysis underlines what our own data and experience have shown us – that providing mental health support at the earliest possible stage is vital to giving children brighter prospects for the future and ensuring that problems don’t become more complex and entrenched.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:

“School leaders regularly raise concerns about support for pupil’s mental wellbeing. They are doing everything they can to give the children in their care the support they need, but it is becoming harder and harder as funding and resources get cut both for schools and for specialist mental health services.

“One in five children will experience a mental health difficulty at least once in their first 11 years, and many adults with lifetime mental health issues can trace the symptoms back to childhood. This research shows so clearly the positive impact early help can have, for individuals and for society.

“It would be a sensible investment for the government to fully fund a universal rollout of mental health and wellbeing support in all schools.”

“We also need to make sure that schools are supported by health and social care services allowing schools to fulfil their role in promoting pupil wellbeing rather than making up for cuts to other services.” 

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