The Welsh government has announced further funding for mental health services for children and young people to mark Children's Mental Health Week.
The extra £9.4 million is intended to address additional strain on children caused by the pandemic, which has seen them separated from their usual support networks at school or in their family.
Of the total funding package, £5.4 million will go toward intensive support services – both inpatient and community-based – provided through Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).
The remaining £4 million will be used to improve access to counselling and wellbeing support in schools.
A full rollout of the CAMHS School In-Reach pilot programme is also envisioned having so far provided impressive results in an interim evaluation.
Currently only available in schools in the South East, West and North of Wales, the programme is helping schools provide more extensive mental health and wellbeing support to pupils.
Specifically, it aims to build staff skills and confidence in providing mental health advice, and improve access to specialist liaison, consultancy and advice when needed.
"This significant investment in mental health services for children and young people shows we recognise the impact the pandemic is having on them and are doing everything we can to improve access to support," said Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing, Eluned Morgan, during the launch of Children's Mental Health Week.
"We understand that getting the right support at the right time, in many cases, can prevent longer-term adverse effects, and that’s why we’re making access to support a priority."
Education Minister, Kirsty Williams, added to the voices in support of the extra funding: "Ensuring our children have access to effective mental health support is essential if they are to grow up to be healthy and confident individuals.
"[The] £4m will make a significant difference to this programme and will improve the resources and services available to children and young people in these challenging times."
The decision to provide extra funding is in line with the Welsh government's general prioritisation of mental health.
For 2021/22, the Welsh government has set a protected minimum spend of £783 million on mental health – more than it spends on any other aspect of the NHS.
The extra funding for youth mental health services is more important than ever as the number of children thought to be experiencing a mental health issue is now 1 in 6 – up from 1 in 9 in 2017 – which is thought to be driven by pressures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.