About HeadStart Kent

HeadStart Kent is part of Kent County Council’s Integrated Children’s 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. The programme is funded by The National Lottery Community Fund to provide the resources to develop approaches that support young people to develop their own resilience to cope with the everyday pressures they may face throughout their lives. HeadStart Kent aims to make changes through schools, families and within communities and has been designed with young people at its heart.

HeadStart Kent’s mission statement is:

By 2020 Kent young people and their families will have improved resilience, by developing their knowledge and lifelong skills to maximise their own and their peers’ emotional health and wellbeing; so navigate their way to support when needed in ways which work for them.

Young people have been clear on what they need to support their mental wellbeing, and HeadStart aims to focus on building a sustainable system where every young person in Kent will be able to say with confidence:

  • People around me understand wellbeing and how to promote it
  • My overall wellbeing is not impacted by the pressure to achieve and to be perfect
  • There is always someone for me to talk to.


HeadStart Kent Phase 3 was dependent upon securing significant resources over five years, and using this as an investment fund to achieve systemic and lasting change for young people and communities in Kent. Given the scale and complexity of Kent we have designed a rolling programme of investment. This will enable testing and learning over the five years, building our understanding of the conditions for sustainable change and reflecting this in our approach.

The ambition of HeadStart Kent is that within families, schools and communities, resilience and improving young people’s emotional health and wellbeing is “everybody’s business”.

We are aware of the changing context of mental health and emotional wellbeing services, both within Kent and nationally. Until we have effective support embedded at an early stage, we will continue to see specialist mental health services across the country overwhelmed by demand and children exposed to these poor outcomes(1).

HeadStart Kent will work intensively with Groupings of schools for an 18 month period. Across the five year Project, nine priority Groupings of schools will be engaged. Part of this work will involve schools and communities identifying, negotiating and securing commitment from partners and funding from a range of sources to generate long term benefits.

(1)Kent County Council “The Way Ahead Part 2 Delivery Plan; Kent’s Emotional Wellbeing Strategy for Children, Young People and Young Adults”, (Kent County Council on behalf of the Kent Health and Wellbeing Board, May 2015).

What it means for Kent

In Kent, we are currently responding to a real call to action from children, young people, families, professionals and politicians to focus our attention on securing a comprehensive emotional well-being offer for children, young people and their families. We have made significant progress in recent years, but we know that more is needed if we are to fully respond to the needs of families in Kent.

This Case for Investment will enable all Kent schools and communities to offer better support in emotional health and wellbeing. This will benefit 125,300 10 to 16 year olds and particularly those 18,795 young people with mild to moderate emotional wellbeing and mental illness.

By engaging the specific Groupings of schools, we will provide enhanced support to 134 schools comprising a HeadStart Kent population of 76,938. A further 8,744 young people will receive additional support. We expect the benefits to extend beyond this population as the learning and expertise developed will be shared widely across the county and beyond.

HeadStart Kent is therefore a crucial part of Kent’s emotional health and wellbeing offer to children, young people and their families. We will strive to achieve a shift in culture, from grass-roots level upwards, ensuring resilience, emotional health and wellbeing, and mental health are prioritised and transformed for young people today and for future generations.

HeadStart Kent Roll Out

Below is a table containing the dates the HeadStart programme and services are live. See the HeadStart Services page for details and links to additional services.

Area Start Date End Date
Gravesham and Swale Jan 2017 Aug 19
Ashford, Canterbury, Folkestone and Hythe Jan 2018 Dec 2019
Thanet and Maidstone Jan 2019 Dec 2020
Dover, Tonbridge and Malling Sept 2019 July 2021