PARENTS and schools, who can afford to pay, can buy support from emotional health workers at the council. 

As part of the commercialisation programme, West Berkshire Council is looking elsewhere for new revenue following government funding cuts. 

One of these areas is emotional health. The council runs an ‘emotional health academy’: an early intervention support service, which opened in April 2016. 

The academy aims to support children and young people as early as possible, and stop emotional health problems getting worse. 

Emotional health refers to dealing with things like feelings and emotions, anxiety and stress, attention and concentration problems, and self harm. 

However, councillors have questioned why it has been included in the commercialisation programme

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Councillor Martha Vickers (Lib Dem, Newbury Central) said: “I don’t understand why we have got the emotional health academy in there. We’re trying to make money out of it?” 

Cllr Steve Masters (Green, Speen) said: “If we have a finite amount of officer resources, are we not in danger of creating a two-tier system? 

“If people are willing to pay for a service, is there a danger that we prioritise those because they’re paying — to the detriment of people who are actually the most vulnerable?” 

They were quizzing council bosses on commercialisation, at a meeting of the overview and scrutiny management commission on October 29. 

Andy Sharp, executive director of people, said: “We are always very careful with these things. The first port of call is always those clients and residents who require that service.”

Nick Carter, chief executive, said: “The emotional health academy is a growing market, launched into the school market and the parent market with some success.”

Mr Carter stressed that the emotional health academy does offer free services to some children, too, as well as the paid services. 

He said: “It’s not a question of staff doing either or. It’s trying to keep the two separate. Staff aren’t pushed either way, and we certainly don’t give preference to either. As far as we’re concerned, they’re both important.”

The emotional health academy clinic for parents costs £50 for a 50-minute session; while schools can pay £7,208 a year for an eight-hour a week package.