In-school mental health workers for Canterbury and Kaikōura children, Jacinda Ardern announces
The Government has announced the first stage of its pre-election promise to hire 80 in-school mental health staff for Canterbury and Kaikōura children.
East Christchurch and Hornby children will be the first to benefit from the teams, with 13 schools sharing six dedicated staff, including community workers and health professionals.
The number of children with mental health issues in Canterbury and Kaikōura has soared since the September 2010, February 2011 and November 2016 earthquakes.
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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) was working on hiring the six staff and hoped to have them in place by April.
The board would work to roll out the $28 million plan by July next year, which would result in one mental health worker for approximately every 500 primary and intermediate age school children in Canterbury and Kaikōura.
The team would include nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists, occupational therapists and counsellors, and would support parents as well as children.
During the election campaign, Labour promised $30m over three years to hire 80 mental health workers in schools. The $2m difference was due to costing differences, Ardern said.
Labour also promised to place a nurse in every public secondary school nationwide.
“Since 2011, there has been a 93 per cent increase in demand for mental health services for children and young people in quake-affected areas. We want to wrap more care and support around these children at an early age,” Ardern said.
Rolleston School teacher Jordan Shallcrass, who previously taught in east Christchurch, said more children needed access to counselling and many were still traumatised from the quakes.
Some children would sit near an exit and were too scared to go on class trips or be away from their parents, she said.
“There is a lot of anxiety in children – they still they find it hard to focus and to participate.”
New Zealand Education Institute Te Riu Roa welcomed support for “traumatised” children.
President Lynda Stuart said schools were hubs of support for communities in times of trouble and she would welcome “an extension of the scheme throughout the country”.
CDHB chief executive David Meates also welcomed the announcement.
“Many of these children have grown up in households where parents have had to focus considerable time and energy on dealing with significant post-quake stressors, such as ongoing battles with insurance and house repairs.
“This is in addition to the anxiety and fear of experiencing the many thousands of quakes which have hit our region.”
He said the first 13 schools to receive help had been chosen because they had “significant diversity and provide an opportunity to address equity issues”.
Hornby schools had experienced increased mental health demand due to post-quake population movement, he said.
The CDHB would work with the Ministry of Education to design the initiative, led by Canterbury Clinical Network chair Sir John Hansen.
“Before the programme is rolled out to all quake-affected schools in Greater Christchurch and North Canterbury, consistent ways of working, along with appropriate training will be developed to ensure that what we create is sustainable and effective,” Meates said.
FIRST SCHOOLS TO BENEFIT FROM PLAN
Bromley Primary School
Linwood Ave School
Linwood North School
Te Waka Unua School
Hornby Primary School
South Hornby School
St Bernadette’s School
Wigram Primary School (formerly known as Sockburn School)
Yaldhurst Model School