HeadStart reports on lessons learned and future plans

Headstart Kent – a partnership to improve and build young people’s emotional health and wellbeing – has been celebrating its successes at a final learning event as it moves towards a new programme across the county.

Over the past six years, the HeadStart Kent (HSK) partnership, funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, has worked to support young people’s resilience by equipping them to deal with difficult circumstances and challenges in their lives.

Victoria Suchak from the Pavilion Youth and Community Cafe

This partnership with health colleagues and schools promoted early support to young people at school, in their local community, with their family members at home and in their interaction with digital technology. It has benefitted more than 50,000 young people.

The final learning event at the Kent Event Centre at Detling showcased the learning, benefits and demonstrated how the programme’s elements will be sustained and developed across the county. The success of the programme can be attributed to the work with 2,785 young people who have helped design, deliver and evaluate the programme.

Young people who have received additional support through the programme are reporting significant improvements in their well-being, and those participating say they feel more supported by their peers. Eva, a member of Kent Youth Voice and National HeadStart group, said she had “learned ways to cope, make friends, social skills and how to interact appropriately with my peers.”

Sia, a member of Kent Youth Voice, said that “resilience is important because without resilience you will never be able to get anywhere. You are not always able to do something first time round, and if you have resilience, it doesn’t matter if you don’t get it the first time, you can keep trying.”

Sue Chandler, KCC’s Cabinet Member for Integrated Children’s Services, said: “HeadStart Kent aimed to make changes through schools, families and within communities and was designed with young people at its heart to make their mental wellbeing everybody’s business.

“Young people who have received additional support through the programme are reporting significant improvements in their well-being, and those participating say they feel more supported by their peers.

The Young Lives Foundation team with their award

“The programme was always time-limited so we have been planning for the future with the help of schools, health partners and the voluntary sector, and sharing evidence around we have found works well. This has enabled the successful elements of the programme to have future funding and some are already embedded, meaning business as usual within Kent’s children and young people’s mental health system.”

She presented the Kent Community Award for Resilience and Emotional Wellbeing to three organisations – The Prince of Wales Youth Club in Canterbury, The Young Lives Foundation and the Pavilion Youth and Community Café in Broadstairs.

Scott Hignett from The National Lottery Community Fund said: “Through the HeadStart Kent programme, tens of thousands of children and young people across the county have benefitted from mental health support and interventions to help them build their resilience and improve their wellbeing.

“The National Lottery funding awarded to HeadStart Kent will leave a lasting legacy thanks to the wealth of evidence and learning which has been taken from the programme and is now embedded into the county’s mental health provision.”

The School Health Service, funded by KCC, will continue to support schools to deliver a “whole school approach”, including completing the Resilience toolkit, should they wish to.

KCC is also supporting the roll-out of mental health support teams, locally referred to as “emotional wellbeing teams”, which were established through the government’s Green Paper on transforming children’s and young people’s mental health to provide extra capacity for early intervention and ongoing help for mild-to-moderate mental health needs.

Kent and Medway will have 21 teams, funded by the NHS, in place to focus on areas and schools with the greatest need. Each team is geographically located to be able to reach a population of 7,000 5 -to-19-year-olds.

Building on the HeadStart Kent Programme, KCC and the Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group have also extended the Kooth online counselling service across Kent  and increased support for young people up to the age of 25 and can be accessed at www.kooth.com

One-to-one mentoring, and training for staff in Youth Mental Health First Aid is now funded by KCC, CCG and the Kent Reconnect programme   grants which can be used for developing young people’s talents and interests, school and community projects, group activities for young people, and weekend residential events to build skills and confidence.

HeadStart Kent has established two websites – the Kent Resilience Hub (www.kentresiliencehub.org.uk), which offers support and advice for families, and MoodSpark (www.moodspark.org.uk), which was designed with and for children and young people in Kent. These were codesigned by young people, parents and professionals, provide instant support and advice so the emotional wellbeing system and will continue to be available.

The participation team is being sustained by  Kent County Council and additional participation workers have also been funded by the Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group focusing on lived experience of mental health.

A key theme over the next year will be to ensure the benefits continue to be embraced and delivered by Kent schools, services and community organisations over the long term.

About HeadStart – The National Lottery Community Fund has supported six HeadStart programmes in England since 2016, including the one led by Kent County Council. Last year Kent received an additional £1,036,277 to allow the schemes to continue until 2022 rather than ending next year as originally intended. In total Kent has benefited from funding for the six years totalling £11,249,886.

HeadStart Kent is part of Children, Young People and Education Services and aims to help young people cope better when faced with difficult circumstances in their lives, preventing them from experiencing common mental health problems.

HeadStart Kent has reached:

  • 52,532 young people have benefited from universal support through schools and community organisations;
  • 44,635 young people have received HeadStart interventions to support them, of which 2,110 have received mentoring (safe spaces, online support, mentoring, talents and interests and resilience conversations);
  • 553 schools have engaged with the HeadStart Kent programme and, 53 of these have been successful in achieving the standard for the Kent School Award for Resilience and Emotional Well-being in recognition of the support they offer their young people;
  • 6,621 adults in schools and community organisations have been trained in ways of supporting young people’s emotional well-being and resilience.
HeadStart reports on lessons learned and future plans was last modified: June 21st, 2022 by Murray Evans