child fitness and healthSupport for local authorities to help children and young people to be confident, happy and reduce behavioural problems is the focus of the latest NICE local government briefing.

The new briefing for local government on social and emotional wellbeing covers a range of areas essential for creating a sound basis for healthy behaviours and good educational achievement in children. Based on recommendations from existing NICE guidance, the briefing focuses particularly on vulnerable children under 5 years old and all children in primary and secondary education. The aim is to give local authorities and partner organisations information on the most effective public health tactics which also provide the best value for money. Taking steps to support the social and emotional wellbeing of children and young people improves the life of the child, the people around them and the local community. It's estimated that the long-term savings for child and adult social care, criminal justice system and the NHS far outweigh the comparatively small costs to improve wellbeing.

Professor Mike Kelly, Director of the Centre for Public Health at NICE, said: “Supporting the emotional and social wellbeing of children and young people is important not only for the child and those around them, but also the community in which they live. This briefing will help local authorities across the country provide the best care for children no matter where they live, save money and improve lives.

“Nearly half of 14 year olds report they are being bullied. Their school work suffers and they achieve poorer results - the equivalent of 2 grades lower at GCSE level. Research shows that aggressive behaviour at the age of 8 years is a predictor of criminal and abusive behaviour.

“This briefing aims to help local authorities to create a safe environment for children and young people which is emotionally secure and which prevents behavioural problems, including bullying and violence. This will provide the best opportunity for children to reach their potential both academically and personally. This means developing their ability to resolve conflicts, solve problems, cope with difficult experiences and reduce risk-taking behaviours. This can improve pupils' interest in learning and achievement.

“For example, the briefing recommends that schools should use targeted approaches for children showing signs of anxiety or emotional distress or who are developing behavioural problems. This includes schools ensuring that teachers are trained to identify and assess the early signs of these issues among primary school children. They should also be able to assess whether a specialist should be involved and make an appropriate request for further support. This might include schools working with local authority advisory services and other organisations to access the specialist skills, advice and support they need. Taking coordinated action now can help create a happier, healthier future for children and their local communities.”

Some further examples of effective recommendations highlighted in the new briefing include:
- Commissioners and providers of services to children in primary education should develop and agree arrangements to ensure all primary schools adopt a comprehensive whole school approach to children's social and emotional wellbeing. They should provide specific help for those children most at risk (or already showing signs) of social, emotional and behavioural problems
- All health and early years professionals should identify factors that may pose a risk to a child's social and emotional wellbeing. This includes factors that could affect the parents' capacity to provide a loving and nurturing environment (for example, poor housing conditions; problems they may have in relation to the father's or mother's mental health; substance or alcohol misuse)
- Ensure procedures are in place for early years professionals to make referrals to specialist services, based on an assessment of need
- Children's services should ensure all vulnerable children can benefit from high quality childcare outside the home on a part- or full-time basis
- Schools should offer support to help parents or carers develop their parenting skills. This may involve providing information or offering small, group-based programmes run by community nurses (such as school nurses and health visitors) or other appropriately trained health or education practitioners.