The ‘secure future’ is looking more like the past

Disappointed with the recent Budget’s absence of funding for school counsellors in secondary schools, NZ Association of Counsellors (NZAC) is wondering when the Government will live up to its promises.

The much needed $90 million in funding for the expansion of the Mana Ake programme is a coup for primary school students dealing with mental wellbeing issues, says NZAC President Christine Macfarlane.

However, even more could have been achieved with complimentary financial backing to remove mental health barriers for secondary school students who require urgent support.

It also essential that any government funding for school counsellors is ringfenced, Christine adds, to ensure the backlog of students and workload pressures caused by COVID-19 are alleviated. Ringfencing the funding will guarantee that it can’t be misappropriated.

“The Government knows that school counsellors in secondary schools are incredibly important for a youth’s wellbeing; it co-funded the country’s first-ever research into the effectiveness of counsellors.

“Not only did that study find that students of all ethnicities benefited from counsellors but also pondered how many more benefits could be accomplished by school counsellors if a more favourable staffing ratio was employed.

“Our school counsellors – who are under-resourced and under-appreciated – need greater financial support to help our young students.”

Along with others, NZAC has advocated successive governments to appropriately resource school counsellors in schools across the country, because students mostly seek support from an adult outside of their whanau.

The co-funded research found that in every participating school, the ratio of counsellors to students (1:668) far exceeds the American School Counsellor Association’s recommended 1:250, and the NZAC’s recommended 1:400.

And it is a problem without a light at the end of the tunnel as Macfarlane says youth are presenting to school counsellors with increasingly complex and severe mental health issues.

“More staffing would enable counsellors to work more effectively, experience less job-stress and burnout, and, for students, the waiting time to see a counsellor would be reduced.”