£5 million 'education restart' wellbeing fund launched
A £5 million fund to help schools and youth groups support the mental health and wellbeing of young people has been launched.
The money has been secured to help address new pressures arising as a result of Covid-19.
It will be provided directly to all schools - nursery, primary, post-primary, special as well as Education Other Than at School settings.
For youth settings, a lump sum of £250,000 will be administered by the Education Authority.
In June, Barnardo's surveyed its partner schools in an attempt to understand the challenges they would be facing and the help they felt was needed to support the mental health and wellbeing of pupils.
All respondents confirmed they would welcome additional help to support their pupils, with 80 per cent indicating a need for increased funding to address this need.
Schools can now use the extra money to provide emotional support and nurture or other activities.
Education minister Peter Weir set out details during a visit to St Columbanus College in Bangor.
He said there had been numerous studies carried out across Britain and Northern Ireland about the negative impact of Covid-19 on young people's mental health.
"My priority has always been to ensure children return to school to continue their learning. I fully recognise that any return must be done safely and with as much support as possible to help principals, staff and young people," the minister said.
"Wellbeing was identified as one of the key areas of the Education Restart Programme. A project was established to ensure educational settings have the information, resources and support they need to help them provide a culture of positive emotional health and wellbeing for children and young people."
Guidance will be provided to schools as to how best they might use the funding.
"This is a significant investment which I know will be of benefit to pupils and staff alike," Mr Weir added.
"It can be used to provide emotional support, nurture, sporting and fun activities and after school clubs for young people. For staff, the funding can be used to support mindfulness, stress busting and other activities. In addition, educational settings will be able to work with other organisations or improve their physical environments.
"Children and young people have missed so much this year already, it is essential that they, and indeed our staff, are supported and helped in the challenging months ahead."