10 Oct 2008

“One size fits all service” not good enough – Lewsley

NORTHERN Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, Patricia Lewsley, today called for school counselling services to be more dynamic in meeting the needs of pupils at times of need.

Ms Lewsley said that this week she had heard harrowing tales of children in need of counselling after traumatic experiences.

“School counsellors are performing tremendous work throughout Northern Ireland, but in some schools they are being overwhelmed,” she said. 

“In the space of just three days I have met principals of schools who told me of waiting lists of pupils who are in acute need

“At the same time there are schools which feel they do not, at this time, need the support of counsellors.”

The commissioner said that while there is an audit of need currently underway across schools the service needs to be dynamic and flexible enough to meet needs.

“By setting identical allocated hours per school the service has become a ‘one size fits all’ service, which simply is not good enough. 

“Some schools will need greater support than others, while others will have addressed problems through other means. In addition some young people will find services from their GP or a telephone helpline, for example, better suited to their needs.” 

Ms Lewsley said on the Department of Education and Health need to work together to fully implement the findings of the Bamford Review of Mental Health and Learning Disability.

But her final message was reserved for young people themselves.

“If you feel that you need support, help, or even just someone to talk to, don’t hesitate. There is help available in school, help in the community, help from your doctor and support from family and friends. Please, please seek out that help.”