Legislation and guidance
In England and Wales, the Mental Health Act (MHA) 1983 covers the assessment, treatment and rights of people with a mental health condition. It applies to all children and young people under the age of 18. The Act allows for people to be detained in hospital if they need treatment for a mental health condition. It gives children the right to appeal against detention.
The Mental Health Act 1983 was amended by the Mental Health Act 2007. This strengthened children's safeguards, for example adding a duty to ensure an age-appropriate environment for children and young people.
In England and Wales, the Schools (Mental Health and Wellbeing) Bill is progressing through Parliament. This will set out how schools should promote the mental health and wellbeing of the pupils.
In Scotland, the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 applies to all those with a "mental disorder", including children and young people. It contains specific safeguards for under 18s regarding mental health treatment, including on named persons, promoting wellbeing and the welfare of children.
The Mental Health (Scotland) Act 2015 amended provisions relating to children and young people in the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003, specifically on named persons and providing services and accommodation for mothers.
In Northern Ireland, the Mental Health (Northern Ireland) Order 1986 is the main mental health legislation which applies to children and young people under 18. It covers the assessment, treatment and rights of people with mental health conditions.
In England, from September 2020, the Department for Education (DfE)’s statutory guidance for schools, highlights that child mental health problems may be an indicator that a child has experienced abuse or neglect. The guidance includes information on how schools and colleges should support children and young people’s mental health (Department for Education, 2020).
Public Health England (PHE) provides guidance on Improving the mental health of children and young people. This describes the importance of children’s mental health and summarises what works in improving their mental health (PHE, 2016).
PHE has published guidance on promoting children and young people’s emotional health and wellbeing in schools and colleges. This sets out eight principles for protecting and promoting young people’s emotional health and wellbeing. (Public Health England, 2021).
PHE has also produced guidance for health commissioners and professionals on Measuring the mental wellbeing of children and young people (PHE, 2015).
In Northern Ireland, the Department of Health has published a Mental Health Action Plan, which is comprised of 38 actions and commits to producing a mental health strategy (Department of Health, 2020).
The Guidelines and Audit Implementation Network (GAIN) have also published Guidelines on the use of the Mental Health (Northern Ireland) Order 1986 (GAIN, 2011).
In Scotland, the government has produced guidance on the mental health and wellbeing of disabled children, young people and their families (Scottish Government, 2019).
It has also provided a CAMHS national service specification, outlining the available CAMHS provisions for young people and their families (Scottish Government, 2020a).
The Scottish Government has also published guidance on Access to counselling in secondary schools. This provides a framework on developing access to counsellors within schools for education authorities (Scottish Government, 2020b).
The Scottish Government has produced a framework for community mental health and wellbeing supports and services, which sets out an approach for the mental health and wellbeing support children and young people should be able to access in their community (Scottish Government, 2021).
NHS Education for Scotland has produced an Early intervention framework for children and young people’s mental health and mental wellbeing. The framework enables practitioners to compare different evidence-based prevention and early intervention approaches that have been designed to improve children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing (NHS Education for Scotland, 2020).
In Wales, the government has produced a strategy for Mental health and wellbeing (PDF). This covers children and young people as well as adults (Welsh Government, 2012).
The Welsh Government has also published non-statutory guidance on Collaborative working between CAMHS and the counselling service. This outlines how services are organised and includes case studies on collaborative working (Welsh Government, 2016).