As a local, place-based funder focusing on children and young people, we have prioritised the improved mental health and emotional well-being of children (and their parents) for the last 10 years. During that time, awareness of mental health issues across society has increased significantly. Then came 2020, and our own experiences of lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic meant we were all abruptly aware of the need to look after our mental health.
Many of our funded initiatives contribute to children and young people’s emotional well-being by offering extra-curricular music activities, places to hang out after school, and the chance to try new activities. There are three types of initiatives we’ve invested funding in that specifically provide emotional support and improve mental health – befriending, art therapy and family therapy in schools.
Westminster Befriend a Family – a locally-based charity we’ve supported for over 10 years. They offer a combination of practical and emotional befriending support to parents (school age children) and mentoring for children and young people (aged 11+). The mentoring used to focus on getting out and trying different sports and activities but they’ve adopted a longer term perspective and try to encourage young people to value their education and achieve their goals in life.
Family Action Friendship Works – a long-term (two years) mentoring programme that supports all aged children who have experienced childhood trauma or disrupted attachments. It is an intense relationship with the volunteer mentors taking the young person out 3 out of 4 weekends for several hours on trips or activities, plus quarterly review meetings with staff and family members. We have supported a small number of children for the last five years.
St Vincent’s Family Project – another locally-based charity that we’ve supported for many years offering Creative Arts Therapy for children aged 4–13 years old. Art and Drama therapy use the natural creativity of children to explore and work with feelings that may be too difficult to approach directly. They accept referrals from local agencies and directly from parents and work in partnership with several local primary schools.
Anna Freud Schools Outreach Service – we’ve funded this service for the last three years across 6–7 primary schools in our area. A family therapist works in the school for half a day per week offering individual therapy sessions with children or families and can also support school staff.
Other similar initiatives that we have supported in the past are:
Centrepoint – contribution to mental health adviser salary specifically to support young people in Soho hostel with suicidal thoughts.
Roundabout – dramatherapy project in a local primary school.
BEANii – a new school based drama programme to promote emotional literacy.