HeadStart Kernow supports thousands of children and young people in Cornwall

Eight months after being awarded £8.9m from the Big Lottery Fund’s HeadStart programme, HeadStart Kernow is making a real difference to the lives of thousands more children and young people across Cornwall. 

Cornwall’s successful HeadStart programme was set up in 2014 after the Council was invited by the Big Lottery Fund to submit a bid for funding to help support young people aged between 10-16 years to deal better with difficult circumstances, and help manage emotional and mental health challenges before they become serious issues. The Council was awarded £500,000 which was used to set up the programme.

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Led by a partnership including Cornwall Council, Devon and Cornwall Police, NHS Kernow, Cornwall Foundation Trust, Cornwall Association of Secondary Headteachers (CASH), Cornwall Association of Primary Headteachers, (CAPH) and the voluntary and community sector, HeadStart Kernow focuses on four key areas: 

  • A child’s time and experiences at school
  • Their ability to access the services they need
  • Their home life and relationships with family members
  • their interaction with family members 

Practitioners use a range of approaches, including peer mentoring, mental health ‘first aid’ training, online portals and special resilience lessons to help young people feel they have support in the classroom as well as at home, and tackle the stigma that can often surround the issues of mental health. 

During the two year period between 2014 and the summer of 2016, the programme worked with 61 primary schools, 10 secondary schools and one special school across Cornwall, helping to support around 10,000 young people aged between 10 and 16 years.  Specialist training was also provided to more than 100 practitioners, both in schools and in the voluntary and community sectors. 

Last July Cornwall became one of just six areas across the country to receive a Big Lottery Fund grant to continue its work in supporting the emotional wellbeing and mental health of children and young people up to 2021. The £8.9m grant is being used to support the delivery of the HeadStart Kernow Strategy and has already resulted in hundreds more children and young people receiving support. 

The HeadStart Kernow programme sits within Cornwall Council’s Children, Families and Adults Directorate and is led by Jane Black, the Council’s Service Director for Education and Early Years, with Andrew Wallis, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, the lead Member. 

“The funding from the National Lottery has meant we have been able to build on the current programme and provide much needed pro-active and preventive emotional health support for more young people across Cornwall” said Andrew Wallis, the Council’s Lead Member for Children and Young People. 

“We are using the money to support a range of activities in schools and in local communities, to help develop the workforce and to improve support systems to ensure that all children and young people in Cornwall can access the right support when they need it.  Young people are telling us that the programme is making a real difference to them and I am very proud of what we have achieved. 

Jane Black added  “I am delighted to host the HeadStart Kernow programme in my service and the resources it has drawn together, in partnership with schools, the voluntary and community sector and most importantly young people themselves. 

“Building emotional resilience and mental wellbeing is a key priority within our Education strategy acknowledging how crucial this is in enabling all young people to maximise their potential as they prepare for adulthood and future employment.”  

Since July the programme has recruited eight new members of staff, including five new HeadStart co-ordinators, and is working closely with the Council and NSH partners to ensure that the emotional resilience and mental wellbeing of children and young people is a key element of the developing One Vision Children’s Services Transformation Plan.

Staff from the programme are also working closely with secondary schools across Cornwall, with a key contact now identified in each of the 31 schools.  Work is now taking place to develop an action plan and budget for each school to support students facing challenges in their lives. 

“I had moved away from a place I once loved, but leaving was going to be easy in respect that I had no life…people would threaten me and make it so I couldn’t leave the front door. However it was going to be hard. I’d lived there all my life and was about to leave my Nana” explained one Year 9 student receiving 1:1 HeadStart support in her school. “At my new school I was advised to see someone who could offer support and I can honestly say it has worked! It has allowed me to sort things over at my own pace, and has given me the opportunity to move on from all the bad and focus on the good and appreciate things. 

“I am making progress at school a lot more! I have learnt to control my opinions when not appropriate and not blame people around me for why I can’t do things! Things could be even better if more schools would encourage this type of help for young people like me.” 

The programme is also continuing to offer “ Thrive “ training to schools and the voluntary and community sector.  This has included developing bespoke, more focused training that more realistically recognise time pressures on schools, the expertise in different sectors and the needs of the community. 

“I don’t trust teachers to be honest! It has been nice to have someone from outside school to do activities with” said one Year 6 pupil who is involved in 1:1 Thrive and transition group work.  “HeadStart is a lifeline to me. It has helped me a lot.” 

HeadStart has also been working closely with the Early Help service and recently organised a Community Showcase event at Looe Children’s Centre. The aim of the event was to provide a networking opportunity for local organisations supporting young people as well as highlighting the support which is available to people working in education, health and social care services. 

Richard Head, Programme Lead for HeadStart Kernow, is delighted at the progress which has been made over the past eight months and says the programme is now working with more young people, families, schools and local communities across Cornwall to pro-actively support good mental health and intervene earlier to help prevent the need for treatment. 

“National research has shown that many young people report being unable to sleep because of stress or worry, with some saying they feel worried or sad at least once a week” said Richard.  “The funding we received last year means we have been able to develop our existing programme to improve support and intervention in school, in the community and at home and help more children and young people to deal with the challenges of growing up and support a healthy life into adulthood. 

Story posted 17th March