23 December 2020

YMCA East Surrey will form part of the new Surrey Wellbeing Partnership which has won a large contract to provide children and young people with greater support around emotional wellbeing and mental health.

This alliance of organisations aims to bring together NHS clinical expertise with local and national third sector organisations who have proven track records in delivering services to children and young people.

Ian Burks, Chief Executive of YMCA East Surrey, says:

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to work in partnership with other charities to greatly expand the current services available to children, young people and their families. This new contract will see an extension of our longstanding counselling service as well as the continued development of other therapeutic support.”

The new provision has been developed in partnership with children, young people and professionals and will see services transformed across Surrey, with roles created to expand the workforce which will be needed to support local families.

There will be a greater focus on providing support when emotional wellbeing or mental health needs begin to emerge. Professionals in schools, primary care and the community will receive increased training and education to be able to help prevent deterioration in emotional wellbeing and mental health, allowing conversations to begin sooner about the best ways a child or young person can be supported.

“It is vital to offer support before problems become entrenched,” says Judith Brooks, YMCA East Surrey’s Head of Children and Young People.

“2020 has proved to be a year like no other. The scale of need is, unfortunately, growing, particularly with additional challenges around COVID-19, so it’s crucial that there is a bigger focus on early intervention within our communities to ensure that no young person is left without support.”

Heads Together has been providing counselling across East Surrey for over 25 years. Last year, 974 children and young people contacted YMCA East Surrey’s counselling team to request support and the charity delivered nearly 3,500 one-to-one free youth counselling sessions.

The YMCA East Surrey WAVES youth club, which aims to provide a positive space for young people aged 13-19 to talk about mental health and wellbeing, supported a further 191 local young people.

Kayleigh experienced years of physical and online bullying at school, which left her with severe depression and spiralling anxiety before she accessed the YMCA WAVES youth group. She says:

“I felt completely isolated, scared, stressed and was having regular panic attacks. The day that I came to WAVES, everything changed for me. It was like a new chapter opened up in my life.”

Sarah Kenyon, Emotional Wellbeing and Mental Health Services Manager for YMCA East Surrey, says:

“Through the Surrey Wellbeing partnership, we will not only be able to offer more support to children and young people in schools and in their communities, but also to their families, so that they can understand and feel better equipped to provide ongoing support themselves.”

The contract was put up for tender by Surrey’s Clinical Commissioning Groups and Surrey County Council earlier this year and the new arrangement, which is aligned to national and local plans, sees greater financial investment over a minimum of seven years. The new service is due to commence in a phased, planned manner from April 2021.