Child well-being frameworks are useful in enhancing our understanding of the needs and challenges of our children. Nevertheless, understanding is not enough. How governments translate that understanding into actual policy plans and actions is an important issue. The following are some of the key initiatives Australian and British government have developed to enhance the well-being of children.
Nation-Wide Initiatives in the United Kingdom
Children and young people’s mental health and well-being
Children and young people’s mental health and well-being taskforce
The taskforce looks at how to improve the way children’s mental health services are organised, commissioned and provided and how to make it easier for young people to access help and support, including in schools, through voluntary organisations and online.
The taskforce brings together experts on children and young people’s mental health services and people who know about wider system transformation from education, social care and health. It commissions external advice from experts and others with experience in children and young people’s mental health.
Future in mind – promoting, protecting and improving our children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing
The children and young people’s mental health and well-being taskforce has issued a series of report called “Future in mind – promoting, protecting and improving our children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing” to make a number of proposals the government wishes to see by 2020. These include:
- tackling stigma and improving attitudes to mental illness
- introducing more access and waiting time standards for services
- establishing ‘one stop shop’ support services in the community
- improving access for children and young people who are particularly vulnerable
The report sets out how much of this can be achieved through better working between the National Health Service, local authorities, voluntary and community services, schools and other local services. It also makes it clear that many of these changes can be achieved by working differently, rather than needing significant investment.
The report also has a child-friendly version which specifically details the commitment the government and the taskforce have to children. The following is an example:
The Children’s Commissioner for England
In addition to the children and young people’s mental health and well-being taskforce, the Children’s Commissioner for England has also published reports to describe the importance of mental health and wellbeing among children and young people and the case for investment in mental health. They also summarise the evidence of what works to improve mental health among children and young people in order to inform local transformation of services.
Promoting children and young people’s emotional health and wellbeing
Public Health England has issued a report to provide guidance for head teachers and college principals on the 8 principles for promoting emotional health and wellbeing in schools and colleges. These 8 principles are informed by evidence and practitioner feedback about what works. It provides practical examples and resources to support the implementation of schools.
The report does not only target head teachers and college principals. It may also be of interest to school and college governing bodies, staff working in education settings, school nurses, local public health teams, academy chains and others with a role of promoting the health and well-being of children and learners.
Health, safety and wellbeing in schools
The government provides guideline and resources on different areas of student well-being for the reference of teachers and educators.
The Health Promoting Schools Framework takes into account the physical, social and emotional needs of all members of the school community. It is based on the principles of the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion (Ottawa, 1986) and was initiated by the World Health Organization. And it aims to provide students with positive experiences and structures that promote and protect their health through the three components of the Health Promoting Schools Framework:
The Health Promoting Schools process consists of a cycle of steps to guide and implement change in a flexible manner. It is expected that such a process be reviewed on an ongoing basis:
- create a shared vision
- select priorities
- develop an action plan
- put the plan into action
- review, reflect and plan for the future
According to the Department of Health, “Schools are in an ideal position to promote and maintain the health of children, young people, school staff and the wider community.” This shows that the Western Australian government does not only see student’s academic performance and achievements when it comes to education (as is often the case in Hong Kong), it actually sees the students and their well-being at the center of its policymaking.
Nation-Wide Initiatives in Australia
In addition to the Health Promoting Schools Framework in Western Australia, Australia also has a few nation-wide initiatives to promote child well-being. These initiatives entail collaborative efforts by the Australian Government, State and Territory government and non-government school authorities and other key stakeholders.
National Safe Schools Framework provides school communities with a vision, a set of guiding principles, and practical tools and resources that will help build a positive school culture and whole-of-school safety and wellbeing policies. It was developed by the Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs. And it is part of a national approach to build safe and supportive school communities that promote positive relationships, resilience and wellbeing.
- incorporates existing good practice and provides an agreed national approach to help schools and their communities address issues of bullying, harassment, violence, and child abuse and neglect.
- recognises the need for sustained positive approaches that include an appreciation of the ways in which social attitudes and values impact on the behaviour of students in our school communities.
- assists all school communities in building safe and supportive schools to reduce bullying, harassment and violence.
The Student Wellbeing Hub contains a wealth of Australian Curriculum aligned information and resources for educators, parents, and students on strategies to build and sustain the wellbeing of the whole school community. It is designed to be responsive to issues affecting students and schools to build positive, respectful and supportive teaching and learning communities. It includes key topics including: healthy minds and bodies; protecting against bullying; respecting diversity; building positive relationships; safe and responsible choices; and being safe online.
Parents and students have dedicated sections of the Hub.
- Parents can browse information and advice to help them: support their child; build positive communication with their child’s school; and
- contribute actively to the wider school community.
- Students will find age-appropriate information, advice, and games that build their understanding of topics and issues important to their wellbeing at school and beyond.
The Hub is funded by the Australian Government, working with state and territory governments, the non-government school sector, and Education Services Australia. It is underpinned by the National Safe Schools Framework.
Mental Health and Well-Being of Children
KidsMatter Primary provides the methods, tools and support to help schools work with parents and carers, health services and the wider community, to nurture happy, balanced children. It assists schools in four key areas that strengthen protective factors and minimise risk factors for students’ mental health:
- A positive school community
- Social and emotional learning for all students
- Parenting support and education
- Early intervention for students experiencing mental health difficulties
MindMatters is a national mental health initiative that provides structure, guidance and support for secondary schools to build their own mental health strategy to suit their unique circumstances. It includes online resources, face-to-face events, webinars and support, delivered by Principals Australia Institute. It is funded by the Department of Health and has been re-developed by BeyondBlue. All content has been informed by strong evidence in the area of school mental health and wellbeing.
The list above is not exhaustive. For more information, please visit the following websites:
Best practices and policy recommendations of the Child Commissioner in Australia
Not only has the Australian government adopted different nation-wide measures to promote well-being, the Child Commissioner also offers best practices and policy recommendations in response to its assessment of the child well-being situation in Australia.
Building Blocks – Best practice programs that improve the wellbeing of children and young people
Together, Building Blocks Edition One and Edition Two list and describe 126 best practice and promising programs from WA and other states and territories. The reports can be used by agencies to identify evidence-based programs that may be suitable, with adaptation for local needs, to address areas where children and young people’s wellbeing is of concern.
The Commissioner has published a series of policy briefs that relate to the specific issues identified in Building Blocks Edition Two, such as adolescent health, family relationships, aboriginal children and young people’s education, and maternal and infant health. These policy briefs help inform policy makers and child-related professionals on specific areas of child well-being.
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