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Young People's Centre
Lyme Road

Katie attends national conference on mental health and wellbeing – by Katie R

I represented The Project at the Youth Work Counts conference in Leeds, which was hosted by Ambition and UK Youth. I was really inspired by all the good work going on around the country with regards to young people’s wellbeing. I thought it would be a good opportunity for those interested to hear a little bit more about some of the thoughts and ideas that happen ‘behind the scenes’ here at The Project.

Firstly, there is a huge amount of work going on nationally around mental health in youth services. The Right Here campaign is a £6 million programme partly supported by the Mental Health Foundation that aims to develop effective new approaches to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of young people in the UK aged 16-25. They gave us all this fantastic booklet about “how to promote mental wellbeing in youth work practice” which I think is an invaluable resource to all youth workers. I like how they incorporate the “Five Ways to Wellbeing” as is endorsed by the NHS. These are: Connect, Keep Learning, Give, Be Active, Take Notice. It got methinking – what ways does The Project honour these principles and in what ways could The Project better enable us to ensure we do our best for the young people that come to sessions? As the Project is still in its first year, the team have done fantastically well to get to the point we’re at, but the learning and evaluating, and reflecting never stops. Each week we are constantly thinking about how we can refine, re-order, and communicate in ways that can make The Project better. Like the Project, Right Here focuses on intervening early to help prevent young people from developing more serious difficulties. Their research found that many people would like support around wellbeing without necessarily being in a clinical environment. They are helping charities like ours to continue the work that we do, and I have made connections to see how we can learn from each other. They had this cool table in their slide show which I thought I would share.

Mental health wellbeing risk and protective factors

Looking at this table, I feel that The Project meets the protective factors and it has spurred me on to work more with LymeNet and UK Youth to help our young people with economic security and job prospects. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but we have also added 5 or 10 minutes of physical activity to our sessions each week which has been great fun! The Project is also now a premium member of Sported. Hannah Colston is the lead in the South West, and I’ve linked up with her and Active Devon to see how we can improve the accessibility of sports in the area. I also spoke with StreetGames who provide sports equipment and ideas about sports development for young people. They are keen to expand their work in the South West!

I also spoke to some people who work at the UK Youth Outdoor Activity Centre in Hampshire. UK Youth is the leading national youth work charity supporting over 750,000 young people. They offer lots of outdoor adventure and field studies activities such as high ropes, canoeing, walking, mountain biking, climbing, swimming and horse riding. We are looking into tapping into their ideas and seeing whether we can organise some outdoor activities for you like the ones we have done with Trill Farm. UK Youth are a fantastic organisation and it was particularly inspiring to hear the Chief Executive Charlotte Hill talk about the “Step Up to Serve” campaign which aims unlock the potential of youth social action across the business, education and voluntary sectors of the UK. Check out the video! This is the kind of the stuff The Project likes to hear!! We have made the pledge to help meet their goal of doubling the number of young people participating in social action to 50% by 2020. After the conference I emailed Charlotte Hill to see whether we can work together to improve the opportunities for young people. It also got me thinking about whether any young people are interested in politics. I have a good relationship with Ben Bradshaw, the Exeter MP – do any of our young people want to go and talk to him with an issue that affects them that they would like to change?

Going to a conference is always a fantastic way to gain inspiration and ideas from others, and also helps to link different charities and organisations up to enable them to work together and avoid repetition. As if all that I have described isn’t exciting enough, what I was most enthused by was how many people there are in the South West that are dedicated to improving young people’s wellbeing in youth services. Young Devon are doing some great work linking youth services with IAPT services (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies). They are currently looking to develop a steering group of young people to evaluate children and young people’s IAPT, and are specifically looking for young people who have links with CAMHS. Are any of our young people interested in this opportunity? Young Devon have also set up a Young People’s Board in Torbay. In short a lot of good stuff going on here regarding listening to young people’s voices and involving them in social action. At The Project we are always keen to ensure we are enabling and empowering young people to have a say in their community. Please let us know if you have any ideas as we now have the expertise of those at Young Devon to support us.

Lastly, HeadStart is a new Big Lottery funded project aimed at 10 to 14 year olds to bring about all of the following outcomes:

  • Young people are better able to cope in difficult circumstances and do well in school and in life
  • Building resilience helps to prevent the onset of common mental health problems
  • Learning from different approaches contributes to an evidence base for serve re-design and for investment in prevention

Cornwall is one of 12 areas invited to bid for £500,000 to develop a partnership project to meet these outcomes. Cornwall Council is leading on the project on behalf of the HeadStart Kernow Partnership Board (HSKPB) – a multi-agency group with representation from Schools, NHS Kernow, Cornwall Partnership Foundation Trust, Public Health & the Voluntary Community Sector on behalf of the Children’s Trust Board. They’ve made this amazing video – check it out! I’ve linked up with them too as they seem to have a very similar vision to ours. It’s very exciting knowing that we are not alone in our little Axminster bubble 🙂

Sorry this was very long. There’s so much more to say – I haven’t even updated you on the workshops I went to on youth participation and how we can evaluate the service for maximum impact and funding opportunities! But rest assured – there’s lots of hard work going on behind the scenes as well as lots of exciting developments for the future! Thanks to EDVSA for giving me the opportunity to attend.


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