The government is streaming more than £3 million into a new pilot scheme between NHS England and the Department of Education that strives to improve mental health services for children.

The Mental Health Services and Schools Link Pilots will test a named single point of contact in 255 schools and in 22 pilot areas, to increase joined-up working and improve access to local, specialist mental health services.

This point of contact will be responsible for developing closer relationships with a counterpart in local NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, to improve knowledge and understanding of mental health issues and to help ensure timely and appropriate referrals.

“This is an opportunity for CCGs and schools to work together more closely, trial a new way of thinking and a new model,” said Jackie Cornish, National Clinical Director for Children and Young People at NHS England.

“We know that if we can help young people effectively at the earliest possible age we can gain the best possible outcome for them in the long run and that is why we are focusing our attention to improve joint working with schools.”

The government has long claimed that putting mental health on an equal footing with physical health is a key priority, but it seems there is still some way to go, with services strapped for cash and struggling to cope with demand.

Just weeks ago a report by think tank The King’s Fund warned that mental health services in England are under “a huge amount of strain”, and highlighted “widespread evidence” of poor care.