Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Solving the mental health crisis

The crisis that we have with children and young people’s mental health is not going to be solved in consulting rooms and clinical settings across our county. The crisis may be contained by professionals in clinical settings, but it is not going to be solved there. 

It will be solved in communities – in schools, in families, in friendship groups, in youth clubs, in charities. It will be solved by changes in attitudes, in cultures, in beliefs and behaviours – not just in the young people themselves, but in their parents, their teachers, their friends and their medical staff. It will be solved by young people having access to and making use of healthy coping strategies – exercise, peer support, long-term bond with a trusted adult, mindfulness - and avoiding unhealthy coping strategies – substance abuse, violence, abusive relationships, eating unhealthily. 

Until we – councils, health services, parents, police, schools, charities – work truly in partnership with young people to understand their lives and address the underlying causes together, the situation will only get worse. 

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Young people with learning disabilities collaboration 

Surrey Youth Focus is delighted to welcome Sally Stubbings to the team, Sally will be working on the Hidden Talent project. This project aims to make it easier for young people with Learning Disabilities and other Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) across Surrey to find work experience, work placements and ultimately jobs. To sign up to the Hidden Talent bulletin please - click here.  For more information please email

More about the project

Given the high employment rate in Surrey, do you find it hard to recruit and retain suitable employees? If so, the good news is that there are “hidden” pools of talent that many employers are not tapping into – young people with learning disabilities. Many young people with learning disabilities are longing to work and make great employees if given the chance. 
There are many wonderful young people who happen to have learning disabilities leaving schools and colleges across Surrey who have the capabilities to do a wide range of jobs. Some are highly capable of doing challenging financial or technical jobs, as long as employers make adjustment for their social skills or other learning disability. Others may excel at doing highly repetitive jobs that others do not enjoy.
Employers benefit from employing young people with learning disabilities by gaining new talent and having a more diverse workforce which can bring useful insights to their organization’s strategy, products and services. It also gives employers an opportunity to demonstrate that they are compassionate and forward looking to their employees, customers and local community, thus helping both customer and employee retention. 
It’s true that some may need more initial support than other employees, but this can often be funded by the state and many employers have achieved a long term return on investment with a hard working, long-serving employee. 
We are aiming to create a win-win situation where employers get access to new pools of employees and some great young people get the work opportunities that they long for. For this to work, there needs to be new paths to employment for these young people, since the traditional recruitment practices typically act as barriers, not enablers. We believe that the best way to do this may be to create an email bulletin which contains requests made by charities/colleges for opportunities such as work placements for young people. If the work placements are successful, these young people might become valuable employees. We are currently doing a survey to find out employers’ attitudes to our ideas.
This project is being led by Surrey Youth Focus in consortium with an impressive list of organisations including Surrey Chambers of Commerce, Surrey County Council, employers, charities and schools & colleges across Surrey.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Employment for young people with Learning Disabilities

Across the country 6% of people with learning disabilities have employment.

We have many young people with learning disabilities who want work and have useful skills and assets that could be beneficial to employers. Many of these young people  have the types of qualities that employers are seeking - they are reliable, loyal and hard-working. In a tight labour market, such as we have in Surrey, employers increasingly need to seek out the "hidden" pools of talent (a phrase that I have learnt from Louise Punter at Surrey Chambers of Commerce). Some young people with autism, for example, are highly talented in logic and numeracy and can bring huge value to IT and financial functions in an organisation.

This is why we are initiating a cross-sector collaboration in conjunction with Surrey Chambers of Commerce, Surrey County Council, Halow and a range of other charities and employers to address this issue. At the first meeting, one of the major issues identified was purely that employers do not know about the possibilities or, if they do, they have put it on the "too hard" pile. The collaborative group will be seeking to address these issues and others.

If you are an employer interested in finding out more about employing a young person with a learning disability, please do get in touch.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Core-porate Social Responsibility

There is a growing thirst in the private sector to do more Corporate Social Responsibility or “Giving Back”. Companies are realising that CSR makes good business sense – by helping key objectives such as recruitment and retention, it directly serves their bottom line. In these cash strapped times, where the "rolling back" of public services is affecting the most vulnerable in society, this is good news. Indeed, we believe that the contribution that businesses could be making as they go about their daily business is huge. 

Take Timpsons -  the key cutting and shoe repairing business – 10% of their 3400 staff are ex-offenders. These staff are employed on day release, whilst still in prison, thus easing their transition to a different life on the outside.  The reoffending rate of these Timpson employees is 3% versus around 45% for ex-offenders in general. Whilst some of this difference may be down to careful recruitment on Timpson's part, surely not all? This has helped Timpsons to get a highly motivated, loyal workforce and done a huge service to society and the public purse: how much would it have cost councils and/or charities to turn that many people's lives around?

If you haven't heard it, I highly recommend listening to the John Timpson interview that was broadcast on Radio 4's Desert Island Disks a few weeks ago -  you can download the Podcast from the BBC.  

The key to really making a difference is ensuring that the CSR activities are part of CORE business, serving business objectives, and not just a bit on the side.  

If you are a company or youth charity in Surrey and are interested in exploring this more, do drop me a line.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Who would you turn to if you had a mental health problem?

Well, looks like my resolution to write more often was broken pretty quickly? Still, I am pleased to say that I stuck to my dry January.

We have collaborated with our members on two different projects about young people's mental health funded by Healthwatch. I was struck by a discussion with a colleague this week that I thought worth mentioning in the blog.

Where would you turn to if you had a mental health problem? Online? Family? Friends? GP? 

Our sample of young people would look online first and maybe go to a friend. Only a subset would go to a professional such as teacher or GP. Few would go to parents. 

I will say that again. Only a subset would go to a professional and few would go to parents.

This leaves us with a real challenge as to how to support young people with mental health. We can have all the services in the world but if they don’t make use of them, what’s the point? This needs to be the starting point for all service designs.

Any comments? Ideas? Feel free to respond or email me.

Monday, 14 December 2015

New projects and new years resolutions

Oops. This hasn't really been a weekly blog of late, has it? We have so many exciting projects going on that blog writing has slipped. Apologies... new year's resolution (is this the first one you've heard?) to write more often.

My wonderful team have been admiring the number of new ideas that I've been having... and gently and wittily pointing out that we cannot do it all. My response was to say that I used to have a boss who was a nightmare to work with because he was always excited by his latest idea..whilst I was still working on the last three that he had tasked me with, so I sympathise with their plight. New Year's resolution no 2: learn to prioritise and say no.

Anyway, here are a few of the things going on that you may be interested in...

  • Our Safeguarding conference went extremely well, with 100% of attendees satisfied or very satisfied. The feedback that we got from attendees is that they want more help with safeguarding...policies, seminars, briefings, etc. We will be talking to Surrey CC about how this might be provided.
  • We are setting up a cross-sector collaboration of organisations who are keen to help young people with learning disabilities into work, in conjunction with businesses, charities, Surrey CC and Surrey Chambers. If you share our passion for this and would like to be involved, let me know. This will be followed by another to help other vulnerable young people into work.
  • We have been awarded funding by Healthwatch to work with a group of young people around the issue of a mental health issue that his bothering them. We will support the young people to take the actions that they want to take to address the issue.

Did I say that I wasn't going to have any more ideas? Trying not to, but then other people give them to me. I went to an event at the House of Lords hosted by Lord Victor Adebowale (CEO of Turning Point) and the very interesting Collaborate organisation. Victor kindly gave me an idea... a significant amount of crime in this country is committed by people leaving care... many of whom have had awful life experiences as children and who have not been given good role models or shown appropriate behaviours required to fit in and hold down jobs. He suggested that we sit down with young people leaving care in Surrey and ask them what they need in order to get a job, housing, self belief etc. I am sure that a mentor, someone that they can turn to when they are down, will figure in there somewhere. We can then get a cross-sector collaboration together to serve these young people in Surrey. There's no shortage of people wanting to help. The challenge is ensuring that the offer is young person focused, holistic and joined up.  I am very excited by this. It's now on my list of things to do. However, I am prioritising. I won't start it until a few other projects are underway. Promise.

I wish for you whatever you wish for yourself this Christmas.... peace, joy, silence, laughter, fun, happiness, calm, energy, etc.....

Friday, 20 November 2015

Reckless young people?

I have heard a number of statistics about the current generation of young people smoking less and drinking less than previous generations. Here's a great story to back up the statistics:

The school council at Eythorne Elvington Community Primary School in Dover raised the issue of smoking by parents at the school gates, leading to the head asking parents to improve their behaviour in the school newsletter.

Go, kids, go! Let's get these kids sorting out world peace, too, I'm sure they can do a better job than our generation.