Tax online giants to help kids’ mental health, say Lib Dems – BBC News

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  • Author, Kate McGough
  • Role, educational producer
  • 1 hour before

The Liberal Democrats have said they would raise taxes on social media giants and companies such as Amazon and Google to fund mental health professionals in all state schools in England if they win the general election.

The new workforce would be paid by tripling the amount that these companies pay in what is known as the Digital Services Tax.

Recent NHS statistics show that almost 340,000 children and young people are currently on waiting lists to access mental health services in England.

The Conservatives said they had already increased training places for mental health nurses, while Labor said they would put mental health support in all schools.

One in five children and young people between eight and 25 years old suffered a “probable mental disorder” last year, according to the latest NHS report.

At this moment there is a support range for pupils’ mental health that schools can access, including funding for training of existing teaching staff and access to external mental health support teams to provide early intervention for issues such as anxiety. The teams are scheduled to reach half of the schools by March 2025.

NHS data compiled by the House of Commons Library for the Liberal Democrats found that 336,886 under-18s were still waiting for their first appointment with a mental health professional in the three months to the end of March this year.

They found that the national average wait time was just over six months (187 days), but with wide regional variation. Children and young people in some areas such as St Helens in Merseyside wait more than twice as long (444 days).

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Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey said thousands of children are “left in limbo” as they wait for mental health treatment.

Their manifesto promise would mean that governing bodies of state-funded schools had a duty to provide access to a qualified mental health professional or school counsellor, funded by central government. Smaller schools with 100 students or fewer could share access with the same person.

Davey said his plan would be funded by a tax on social media giants who he said “are such a big part of the problem.”

The digital services tax was introduced in April 2020 and affects large multinational companies that run social media services, online search engines or an online marketplace for UK consumers.

This is a 2% tax on companies with revenues over £500m worldwide and £25m in the UK.

The Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts the tax will raise around £760m in 2024-25, so tripling the rate is estimated to raise an extra £1.5bn.

Conservative Mental Health Minister Maria Caulfield said: “We have also almost doubled the number of mental health nursing training places to ensure we have the specialist workforce we need to care for patients long-term.”

Labor health secretary Wes Streeting said: “Labour will provide mental health support in every school and center in every community, funded by abolishing tax breaks for private schools.”

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