HeadStart Kent awarded additional year’s funding

Press release
27 October, 2020

HeadStart Kent, a programme that has enhanced the mental health and well-being of young people in the county since 2016, has been awarded extra funding to continue its vital work for an additional year.

The National Lottery Community Fund, which has funded six HeadStart programmes in England since 2016, including the one led by Kent County Council, announced it was making an additional £8.7m available to allow the schemes to continue until 2022 rather than ending next year as originally intended. HeadStart Kent will receive £1,036,277 of this, bringing its total funding for the six years to £11,255,879.

The funding boost comes at a critical time when people of all ages, including the 10 to 16-year-olds HeadStart works with, may be struggling with their mental health as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown.

Sue Chandler, Kent County Council’s Cabinet Member for Integrated Children’s Services, said:

HeadStart Kent has made a real difference to the lives of children and young people in the county over the last four years. Now more than ever it is vital we all look after our mental health, so I am very pleased that HeadStart has received additional funding to allow this work to continue. I would like to express my gratitude to The National Lottery Community Fund for making the additional funds available after already dedicating more than £50 million to these very worthwhile programmes.

HeadStart began in 2016 as a five-year, £58.7million programme with local authority-led schemes in Blackpool, Hull, Wolverhampton, Newham and Cornwall as well as Kent. The idea behind HeadStart was to find new ways to explore and support the mental health and resilience of 10 to 16-year-olds with the aim of preventing serious mental health issues developing.

HeadStart Kent works with schools to help them improve the support they offer pupils in terms of their mental well-being and offers staff training. It organises events and activities for young people such as online counselling and support, one-to-one mentoring, and training for staff in Youth Mental Health First Aid and Mindfulness. The programme also provides 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.

So far in Kent:

  • 43,603 young people have benefited from universal support through schools and community organisations
  • 31,571 young people have received HeadStart interventions to support them, of which 1,744 have received mentoring
  • 342 schools have engaged with the HeadStart Kent programme and so far, 37 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
  • 5,418 adults in schools and community organisations have been trained in ways of supporting young people’s emotional well-being and resilience

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.

One young person, who began engaging with HeadStart Kent when they were 15 years old, said:

The HeadStart programme has been really important to me. It made me feel part of something. I have been able to use my own experiences and struggles with mental health to help others. I have also learned more about myself and how to manage situations, and I know that I’m in control, developing my own resilience for difficult times.

David Weiss, Head of HeadStart Kent, said:

We are thrilled to receive this additional funding, which will allow us to build upon the excellent work we have been doing with schools, community organisations, families and children and young people over the past few years. Over the next two years, HeadStart Kent will focus on supporting young people who have been most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.  A key theme will be ensuring the benefits continue to be embraced and delivered by Kent schools, services and community organisations over the long term. I would like to say a huge thank you to The National Lottery Community Fund, and everyone who plays the National Lottery, as without you we wouldn’t be able to support children and young people’s mental well-being in the way we do.

Nationally, 430 schools and 131,000 young people have engaged with the programmes.

Emma Ackerman, Deputy Director at The National Lottery Community Fund, said:

We are delighted to be able to give further funding to the HeadStart partnerships in England thanks to support from National Lottery players. This extra money comes at a critical time, as we’re aware that there will be people living with the aftereffects of the COVID-19 crisis. The funding recognises and supports the long-term nature of these programmes, ensuring that National Lottery money will support the younger generation with their mental health.