Mental Health FAQs

Below we have answered some of the most common questions we receive about mental health and how a child or young person should be supported. We will continue to add to these as they are received.

About Education

My concerns about my child having SEN are constantly dismissed – what should I do?

Until the correct assessments have been carried out, a school cannot state categorically that a child does not have SEN. In fact, where a child is waiting for a diagnosis, the school should support with appropriate strategies and interventions as though this has been confirmed.

Whilst it will be important to continue with pastoral care, where SEN is suspected or being investigated, the child will benefit from a joined up approach and any support decisions should be discussed with involvement from both the pastoral team AND the SEN team / Senco.

If you feel that your concerns about SEN are not being taken seriously then you may want to consider writing a letter to the SENCO stating:

  • Why you believe your child has or may have SEN (i.e. has a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special education provision to be made for him or her). You will need to explain:
    • why you feel he or she has a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age; or
    • what disability they have that prevents or hinders them from making use of facilities of a kind generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools or mainstream post 16 institutions. 
  • Request that they do some assessments based on your concerns (and ask them to explain in writing what they have done and the results of these). You can point them in the direction of the Graduated Approach pages in tools for schools which indicate what assessments can be done for each area of need.

For more information about SEN and SEN Support please see our SEND Pages

I have been told we cannot have help because school don’t see any mental health issues whist my child is there. Is this right?

When considering SEN or disability, The SEND Code of Practice 2015 (6.45) says: “schools should take seriously any concerns raised by a parent”. Where your child or young person has been off for more that 15 days then the school and LA each have duties in considering what support is needed and actions to be taken.

Where possible keep a diary of the occasions where your child or young person’s mental health has affected them and show this as evidence.

School have said that they have been told by the LA not to send work home as this encourages young people to stay away. We are approaching exams and they are falling further behind – what should we do?

Children unable to attend school because of health needs should be able to access suitable and flexible education appropriate to their needs. The nature of the provision must be responsive to the demands of what may be a changing health status.

The use of electronic media – such as ‘virtual classrooms’, learning platforms and so on – can provide access to a broader curriculum, but this should generally be used to complement face-to-face education, rather than as sole provision (though in some cases, the child’s health needs may make it advisable to use only virtual education for a time). Additional Health Needs Guidance (Section 7&8).

Speak to the school in regard to these duties and discuss what provision can be provided. If school continue to quote the LA, ask for the name of the person / department and get in touch with them directly (again quoting the guidance).

The LGO has published its findings regarding a West Sussex complaint around the lack of alternative provision and specifically mentioned the issue about not having work sent home (point 50 of the report).

School Absence

I’ve been told we need a letter from a consultant, otherwise it will be an unauthorised absence and we will face a fine. Is this correct?

Not entirely. The DfE’s Working Together to Improve School Attendance guidance, section 219 & 220 state “school staff should advise parents/carers to notify them on the first day the child is unable to attend due to illness. School staff must record absences as authorised where it is not possible for a pupil to attend due to illness (both physical and mental health related).

In the majority of cases a parent’s notification that their child is ill can be accepted without question or concern. Schools should not routinely request that parents provide medical evidence to support illness. Only where the school has a genuine and reasonable doubt about the authenticity of the illness should medical evidence be requested to support the absence.

In instances of long-term or repeated absences for the same reason, however, seeking medical evidence may be appropriate to assist in assessing whether the child requires additional support to help them to attend more regularly, and whether the illness is likely to prevent the child from attending for extended periods.

In other words, schools should only be insisting on medical evidence if they doubt your word as a parent or do not feel that you are fulfilling your parental responsibilities under section 7 of the Education Act 1996. It will therefore be important that you show the school as much other evidence as you can in the absence of any medical evidence. This could (and should) include the voice of your child or young person.

If you are still threatened with a fine, you do have the option to appeal and/or complain to the school for not marking the register in accordance with guidance, especially where you have done all that you can to fulfil your responsibilities.

School have said they cannot support my child because they are not in school enough. Is this right?

LAs are responsible for arranging suitable, full-time education for children of compulsory school age who, because of illness, would not receive suitable education without such provision. This applies whether or not the child is on the roll of a school and whatever the type of school they attend. (Additional Health Needs Guidance).

Therefore even if school is not able to make suitable provision, the LA should. Where the LA have told the school to make provision and the school have not, it will be the LA that you will need to contact. You can do this by contacting the WSCC Pupil Entitlement Advice Line – 0330 222 8200.

My child has not attended school for 3 months and we still don’t seem to be anywhere nearer to getting help.

As stated above, it is the duty of the school to have informed the LA of absences over 15 days and the duty of the LA in these circumstances to consider what is needed (e.g. alternative provision), even if this is done through the school.

If nothing has been done, check that the school informed the LA and then get in touch with the LA (Pupil Entitlement Advice Line – 0330 222 8200)

Professionals

School said that they need a professional diagnosis in order to support properly. They want to help but don’t know how.

This can be a very difficult situation, for families and for the school involved. Often school may be prone to do nothing at all in fear of making things worse. The delay in being able to get a diagnosis will often mean that no-one knows what to do and so nothing happens.

Effective communication and understanding is going to be extremely important in these situations. But remember if a child or young person is likely to be absent from school for 15 days or more, then it is the school’s duty to inform the LA and the LA’s duty to consider alternative provision.

My child needs to see a professional but there is such a long waiting list. What can we do?

This is a particularly difficult situation for families and professionals, especially as parents who want the best for their child. Keep communication going with friends, family, school and support groups. The more support you have around you as a family whilst you are waiting, the better the outcome.

In the meantime you can consider self -referring to the West Sussex Single Point of Access (SPoA) :: Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (sussexcamhs.nhs.uk). This is a dedicated service which provides a simplified single route to access specialist emotional wellbeing and mental health support. The SPoA helps direct you to the right service, eliminating the need to refer to multiple services.

EHCNA / EHCPs

I requested an EHC Needs assessment because my child will not go back to school. It has been refused because the LA say he doesn’t need one if he won’t attend school.

There are only 2 criteria that the LA must consider when deciding to agree to an EHC needs assessment.

1) that the child or young person has or may have SEN and

2) that they may need provision to be made through an EHC plan.

Whether a child is or is not in school at this stage, is not a necessary consideration at this point. To learn more about the options available where a request for an EHCNA has been refused, please read our Refusal To Assess page.