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Being involved with HeadStart has taken me on an unexpected route

25 July 2016

Maddie Springett, 19, has been involved with HeadStart Kent from its beginning in 2014 and has shaped the programme which gives young people the support they need to prevent and cope with mental health problems. Maddie, who has trained as a peer mentor, talks about how HeadStart inspired her to take a new direction with her career.

“In early 2014 when I was 17 I was at an event about community safety as a youth councillor and two ladies spoke to me about a new thing that sounded cool. At the time I was looking to get involved in more senior activities.  This was the beginning of the HeadStart Kent pilot and it gave me the opportunity to step up to an adult role and support the younger ones when I turned 18.

Maddie Springett

Maddie Springett

“Through HeadStart I’ve been heavily involved with projects in Thanet, Canterbury and North West Kent. At the time it just seemed to be about helping others but as the project has grown and I’ve become more and more involved I’ve been able to see and inform the strategic side of why this type of support for young people is needed and how it can help us all in the future.

“As part of the main steering group I’ve been active in evaluating what works and what doesn’t at both a local and national level and have been very active in developing materials that have been used for reaching out to pupils at schools across Kent where we’ve been running the pilots. You can hear me in this video that around seven of us work on to explain to others what we were doing.

“It’s been amazing seeing how the trialling and testing has turned into a massive strategy that everyone is talking about. People are chatting about HeadStart in everyday conversations, young people know about it and know where to go and get support before small things become big issues.

“One of the best things I’ve witnessed is training many of us as peer mentors and active listeners. We’ve become the first point of contact for young people who are more comfortable talking to us about worries such as exam stress before talking to adults. By talking to a peer mentor or active listener we can help them diffuse a situation before it becomes a big issue and give them the confidence they need now and in the future.

“I continue to be involved with the HeadStart steering group and as an older young person I hope that I can be a role model for those still at school. There have been loads of standout moments over the past two years including seeing the change in someone who didn’t have the confidence to use public transport to get to school but now can through to another who couldn’t speak in a room with more than five or six others in it who now has the strength to address a room full of people.

“Originally I’d not had a plan to work within youth work – I was keen on getting involved in law and politics. Now through the different experiences that I have been a part of, I’m looking to study criminology and youth work at university in a few years with the aim of working in youth justice. Being involved with HeadStart has taken me on an unexpected route as I’m now very excited about focusing on a career as a youth worker. I have completed a level 2 apprenticeship in youth work and have just joined Catch 22 as a Lead Mentor supporting the delivery of the National Citizen Service Programme and this summer I’m on a four week programme with a group of young people supporting different residential course’s and social action projects in the Swale local community.”

Six areas in the UK, including Kent, will receive almost £54 million to improve the mental well-being of at-risk young people, aged between 10 and 16, through early intervention and a local approach that partners teachers, GPs, charities, health commissioners and local authorities.

Read more about the £54 million funding

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