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HeadStart changed my life

19 July 2016

By Taylor Morrison-Eaves

Throughout the country emotional health and wellbeing within young people is becoming a focus. This is because, compared to five years ago, the statistics show a frightening rise in self-harm, depression, and anxiety with a 50 per cent rise in self-harm admissions for under-18’s.*

In 2014/15 in the Blackpool area, 175 10-16 year olds were admitted to hospital because they self-harmed and/or self-poisoned. This is triple the national average.

This means a lot more services are being put in place to support young people, but it isn’t fixing the problem. A lot, not all, services are looking for a quick fix, a plaster, to put over the issues and hope they go away. What is needed is early intervention, support before the problems occur, measures put in place to ensure everyone knows how to handle the majority of challenges they may face throughout their lives.

I have been battling depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember, and in May 2012 I became the worst I had been. I was primarily being supported by my high school counsellor, but when this low-level support didn’t seem to work, I began seeking other services.

I was referred to weekly counselling. Soon into this I realised it wasn’t working because as soon as I had created a bond with my counsellor they left, and I had to start from square one. After being through several counsellors and services, I felt that nothing was helping, I still felt lost, I was still self-harming and ultimately I felt like there was no point in living. I was then diagnosed with Adolescent Psychosis, this meant that while I had symptoms that suggested Schizophrenia I was too young to be officially diagnosed. I was placed onto medication called Quetiapine, and it took me a while to learn how to say and spell it!

In June 2012 I took a substantial overdose of my Quetiapine and Co-codamol, and because of that I was referred to the Early Intervention Service.

A lot more happened after that: I was in an inpatient unit; I had Cognitive Behavioural Therapy CBT sessions, I was given Sertraline, an anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drug, and I still self-harmed.

In January 2014, I began to feel better, so much so that my youth worker asked if I wanted to go to a workshop. I didn’t really know much about it but I said yes. Little did I know that a project called HeadStart would change my life.

HeadStart is a project funded by the Big Lottery Fund to help support young people, aged between 10 and 16 years old with their emotional health and wellbeing, and to build their resilience. As of this moment, we have been through a lot. We’ve bid for money, started our pilot projects, travelled to many places in England and even been to Canada; worked with amazing people who have taught us so much, and now, we’ve been awarded £10 million to begin the five-year project in Blackpool.

Now that we have the money we can officially begin our project, focusing on four areas; online, family, community and school. I would say my favourite thing we are doing is the universal whole-town approach. This means that we can support every single 10 to 16-year-old in the whole of Blackpool. This is so important because Blackpool has a lot of transience issues, with families moving around and out of Blackpool.

While it is an ambitious dream, it is possible. Blackpool has seven mainstream secondary schools, 34 primary schools, three special educational needs schools and one pupil referral unit (PRU). Granted our PRU is the largest in England, but it is possible to build the resilience and support every single 10 to 16-year-old in Blackpool.

In five years’ time, I hope that HeadStart is still here, and I hope it is still supporting every 10 to 16-year-old and the biggest thing I hope is that it isn’t seen as just another project, I want it to be the way Blackpool is.

As I mentioned earlier, right now we need services that are helping young people face the challenges in their lives, whether it is self-harm or low self-esteem, or concerns about sexuality, gender, religion or whatever it is.

However I hope that one day these services aren’t needed at all. I hope everyone, regardless of their background is resilient and can face whatever life throws at them. I know that seems impossible but anything is possible, it just takes someone to get the ball rolling.

If you, or someone you know is struggling to get out of bed in the morning, or dreads going home, or prefers to stay inside then the best thing I can suggest is to talk to someone, whether it’s a teacher, your parents, a youth worker, a social worker, a friend. Talk to them, let them know what you’re feeling, because I know from experience that bottling your emotions up isn’t healthy.

Taylor Morrison-Eaves is 18-years-old and was involved in the pilot phase and development of HeadStart Blackpool.

Six areas in the UK, including Blackpool, 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. Find out more about the funding

*On average, three children in every classroom have a clinically diagnosable mental health condition, 90 per cent of head teachers have reported an increase in such problems over the last five years and hospital admissions for self-harm among the under-18s are up 50 per cent. IPPR, May 2016

What do you want to celebrate?

6 July 2016

Up to £10,000 in new funding is available for local communities to celebrate.

In a recent Big Lottery Fund survey, six out of ten people* said they have never or cannot remember ever coming together to celebrate with their community. Big Lottery Fund wants to help change this with a new funding programme, Celebrate, which launches today.

With £5 million available across the UK we’re calling on local groups and organisations of all shapes and sizes to apply for funding to hold events or activities that will bring people together and celebrate what makes their local community special.

Celebrate-blog-picIt could be to celebrate something in their local history or a local community hero, to mark something important to their community like Her Majesty The Queen’s 90th birthday, or simply to get to know their neighbours better.

Applications for funding open today, 6 July 2016. To be eligible, applicants must be part of a constituted group which has its own bank account. We welcome applications from voluntary or community organisations, schools and statutory bodies, particularly those who have never considered the Big Lottery Fund as a potential source of funding.

Organisations are encouraged to submit their applications early to avoid disappointment as once funds have been allocated, Celebrate will close to new applications.

What would you celebrate in your local area?

For more information and to apply for a Celebrate grant please visit our website.

You can also follow us on Twitter @BigLotteryFund and join the conversation at #BigCelebration or Facebook.

*YouGov poll on behalf of the Big Lottery Fund with 2109 respondents, June 2016



LEAP celebrates Fathers’ Day!

20 June 2016

The Lambeth Early Action Partnership (LEAP) had a great time celebrating Fathers’ Day at Larkhall 1 o’ Clock Club and the Liz Atkinson Children’s Centre with special events for dads, male carers, and their families. The sun peeked out briefly to shine on the many activities on offer, from face painting to cake decorating and even some kite-making. 

Jennifer Robson, Programme Manager for LEAP, spoke to Mark James, outreach worker at Larkhall, about why events like this are so important.

LEAP-Fathers'-Day-blog“Dads and male carers are part of families – whether parents are together or not – but they often need encouragement to take part in children’s services”, Mark explains. “This might be for various reasons such as dads working in the week, or not feeling comfortable coming along to services mainly attended by women.”

Mark also noted that there tends to be fewer men working in children’s centres, but seeing other male faces really helps dads feel comfortable. One of the dads we spoke to said he often felt activities weren’t for him, until he attended and felt welcomed by staff and other parents.

So how do we help make dads feel more comfortable? Mark said his approach has always been to think about dads from the start: “When mum comes into the centre for the first time, we always ask about Dad, and we register the whole family. We want everyone to know from the start how important their role is.”

The Partnership spoke to several dads who reiterated how important it was to think about more ways to involve fathers. One dad said: “When my partner was pregnant, I went to all the appointments and really wanted to be involved, but nobody asked me how I was feeling. After our baby was born, we both suffered separately with post-natal depression. My partner had support but I felt overwhelmed and alone and had to get through it myself.”

Another dad told us that when his first child was born, he felt very isolated and unprepared. “Hearing about Family Foundations, which LEAP is offering to first-time parents, I thought if I’d had this I would have felt more ready to be a dad.”

LEAP-Fathers'-Day-blog-2The Partnership will be working with some of these dads, and other male carers across the four wards, to design services for the whole family. This will help us understand the particular experience of dads and ensure they are involved, and if they need it, offered support.

Mark says it’s crucial that when organising services and activities, we think specifically about dads – everything from what time they can come along to how to keep the networks dads have built going. It’s also important to ensure there’s ongoing contact after the service has finished.

Another worker at the Larkhall event told us: “There’s a tendency when we see dads at events like this to say “aren’t they engaging well with their children’. These dads aren’t engaging, they’re just being dads, and we need to see it the same way.”

Mark sees LEAP as a fantastic opportunity to promote and celebrate the important role of dads and other male carers in children’s lives, and encourage them to take part in the services on offer.

Thanks to Larkhall and Liz Atkinson for such fantastic Fathers’ Day events, and to all the marvellous dads and male carers who spoke to us. We can’t wait to work more closely with you in future!

To find out more about LEAP Lambeth, you can follow them on Twitter, like them on Facebook or visit their website.


LEAP is supported from the Big Lottery Funds A Better Start Programme with the aim to improve outcomes for children in three key areas of development: social and emotional development, communication and language development, and diet and nutrition.


Libraries in Blackpool get a boost from local dads

17 June 2016

Today, as part of Father’s Day we take a look at how the ‘A Better Start’ programme is supporting dads in Blackpool.

Local dads have joined up with A Better Start, Blackpool Council’s Libraries Service and the Blackpool Illumination’s Lightworks Team to improve the reading spaces for children aged 0 – 3 in local libraries. FRED, otherwise known as the Fathers Read Every Day programme, kicks off in September, with designers helping out to ensure the contributions of dads are reflected in the furniture and art work installed in five local libraries across Blackpool.ABS

Some of the new pieces of art include giant tree bookcases and a raised reading tower. On Friday, Lightworks hosted a ‘Build It Day’ with dads and designers teaming up to build all of the pieces. To coincide with the launch of FRED in the libraries, dads are being supported to increase the time they spend reading with their children thanks to story telling sessions by the library service.

Scott Moseley, a local dad involved with FRED, said

I’ve been involved with the project from the first library we worked together on. This project has got me excited and I’m looking forward to getting more involved. We meet regularly and there are always some new volunteers who want to come along and join us.

I know that it’s going to make a real difference to families who use each of these libraries, and encourage more families to read to their children. I feel proud of being part of it too and look forward to inviting my friends and family to see what I’ve achieved.


How to give volunteer projects a better start

10 June 2016

""In 2015, we commissioned Parents 1st to carry out an evidence review of volunteer models and early childhood outcomes to support our strategic investment A Better Start.  A Better Start is a 10 year ‘test and learn’ investment totaling £215 million across five local area partnerships within BradfordBlackpoolLambethNottingham and Southend on Sea.

These geographical areas have a high level of need in terms of deprivation, educational achievement and child health.  A Better Start will facilitate a system change locally, which means:  a shift in culture and spending across children and families agencies towards prevention;  that local health and other public services,
VCSE and the wider community work together to co-produce and deliver less bureaucratic, more joined up services for all families living in the area; and that these services work with the whole family effectively to improve outcomes for children focusing on pregnancy and the first three years of life.

These new pathways of care aim to make better use of local resources and set out to improve outcomes for children in three key development areas of:

  • Social and emotional
     preventing harm before it happens (including abuse and/or safeguarding, neglect, perinatal mental health and domestic violence) as well as those that promote good attunement and attachment
  • Speech and language development: developing skills in parents to talk, read and sing to, and particularly to praise their babies and toddlers and to ensure local childcare services emphasise language development
  • Nutrition: starting out by encouraging breast-feeding and promoting good nutritional practices.

The five A Better Start partnerships have put local people in the lead and built on the strengths within their communities in a number of ways including supporting local services through volunteering, peer support and ‘community champions’ working alongside a professional workforce. To support the five partnerships to plan and implement these, the evidence review explores ‘what works, when, for whom and in what circumstances’ in contributing to the three child development outcomes with a particular focus on:

  • Availability of suitable models and programmes
  • Expectations regarding outcomes for children
  • System requirements
  • Governance and safeguarding
  • Collaboration with the professional workforce and statutory services.

The Big Lottery Fund recognised that one size doesn’t fit all and the evidence review has not sought to arrive at a set of recommendations, rather a framework for developing a range of approaches to volunteering in different contexts which is applicable in a number of different environments.

Key Findings from the Parents 1st Evidence Review

Volunteer projects can:

  • Contribute to A Better Start outcomes in ways that are distinct from, but complementary to, professional support.
  • Build relationships of trust and equality with parents; reach and be accepted by parents who do not engage with other services; and help to create the conditions that can lead to change.

No two volunteer projects will be the same, because it is essential to adapt the volunteer support to the local context, to its communities and parents. Nonetheless, we can identify some principles and features of volunteer projects that have successfully contributed to the child development outcomes of interest to the A Better Start partnerships and to others working in, or with an interest in, this field.

Six key principles on which to base volunteering projects

  • Strengths-based: with an emphasis on empowering parents to gain the information, confidence and skills they need to find solutions and become the best parents they can be.
  • Relationship-based: developing trust between everyone that is involved − parents, volunteers, coordinators and local professionals.
  • Reciprocal: ensuring that everyone affected by the project feels their voice is heard and that they contribute to and benefit from being a part of the project.
  • Evidence-based but adaptive: rooted in evidence of what works, based on a theory of change and constantly reflecting, and prepared to innovate and adapt to local context.
  • Collaborative: aware of the distinctive roles of professional and volunteer support and working cooperatively with local professionals.
  • Clear about parameters: the aims and the boundaries of the volunteer projects are clearly articulated and understood by parents, professionals and commissioners.

Six key features of successful projects

  • The key role of the project coordinator, understood as the lynchpin of a successful volunteer project. Skilled coordinators can:
    • Attract, engage, train, support, supervise and retain volunteers.
    • Facilitate processes that enable volunteers to engage with vulnerable parents.
    • Build relationships with and between professionals and other voluntary sector projects.
  • Fully costed to provide a proper operational base: staff to coordinate, train and supervise; marketing resources; volunteer expenses such as travel or phone; and data systems.
  • Strong organisational leadership with a core purpose of nurturing grass-roots community involvement.
  • Realistic timescales which account for long lead-in time, while a robust implementation design process is carried out with stakeholders, relationships are built with the local community and public sector professionals, and volunteers are recruited and trained. Initial funding should last for at least three years to allow for meaningful evaluation of impact.
  • ‘Just enough’ data collection. Tracking impact is important, but data collection can be intrusive and burdensome for volunteers and parents. Consider what impacts can be meaningfully measured and how this data can be collected with as light a touch as possible.
  • Leadership models the principles of the projects: Leaders in commissioning and provider organisations must model the strengths-based, relational and collaborative working required for successful volunteer projects.

To find out more about designing and delivering volunteer models please read the full report and framework.


Women and Girls: WILD Young Parents Project

9 June 2016

In our final Women and Girls blog, we hear from Jo Davies, manager of WILD Young Parents Group, a Cornwall-based specialist service for young mums under 23 whose children are at risk or going through safeguarding interventions and/or care proceedings. 

Open-Door-Family-Centre-4WILD aims to provide early intervention to help women develop their parenting skills, and in time be strong enough to help other women in similar situations. Last month they received just under £300,000 from our Women and Girls initiative to provide access to psychological help, support accessing housing and money, parenting skills, health advice and also help to develop their skills and ambition. As the quotes below show, for many women it is truly a life-changing service.

“At WILD Young Parents project, we aim to provide young mums and their children with opportunities to develop skills, improve self-esteem, make positive healthy choices, protect themselves, participate in their communities and achieve their potential. WILD has worked with young parents and their children, who face severe and multiple disadvantage, since 1992.

We will now be able to help young mums and their children who are experiencing safeguarding or care interventions with regard to their children. Research shows that many young mums experience complex barriers to parenting their children, including poverty, domestic abuse, mental ill-health, and childhood trauma. Some of them struggle to create a healthy, safe home, and need support to do this.

Two full-time workers will help young mums make positive changes to their lives including support with healthy living, parenting, mental health, confidence and relationships. There will also be opportunities for young mums to get involved in creative projects and have their voices heard.

We want to improve the lives of young mums, and for them to gain strength from each other as young women. The grant from Big Lottery Fund is great news for some of Cornwall’s youngest and most vulnerable families. Young mums will be at the heart of this new service, and we will also be working closely with Cornwall Council services to ensure our WILD families get all the help they can to make a positive future for themselves and their children.”


If you’d like to find out more about WILD, you can visit their website

Women and Girls: The Venus Centre

7 June 2016

The Venus Centre is one of 63 projects that has recently received funding through our Women and Girls initiative. Based in Sefton, they will be working with women who have lost their children to public care or adoption to empower them to manage their own lives.

In the latest of our Women and Girls blogs, Sally, 35, who has been involved with Venus since she was 16 tells, us how she’s now more in control of her life and her children’s. She has experienced a lot of trauma in her life including sexual abuse, teenage pregnancy, domestic violence, substance misuse, poverty, poor housing and mental health problems. Sally has five children in care.

SallySally’s story:

“I feel more confident. I had help from Venus to learn to deal with stress.  I was taking tablets, drinking, my husband was violent and I had no family support at all. I had been sexually abused by my dad when I was young, my family wouldn’t speak to me and social services were involved because I was struggling to cope with looking after my children. I would shout and rant and rave at social services because I was scared of them and didn’t know how to cope with it.

I thought because my mum experienced and dealt with domestic violence that I had to too. I thought I just had to put up with all the terrible things in my life because that’s all I deserved.

Venus helped me to get my point across to social services, and understand what was being said to me. Even with that support it has taken me 16 years to learn how to deal with everything that has happened to me and understand the effect it had on me, my relationships and my children. Having someone I trusted to help me deal with social services, court proceedings, my poor mental health, drugs and alcohol, domestic violence, abuse in the past and everything else has made the difference for me.

Venus helped me see a psychologist. They helped me to be positive and happy, I can speak to people about what has happened to me and I am happy to share my story if it helps others to get through the same kind of situation. When you’re in that kind of situation, you don’t know who you can trust, so you don’t talk because you think everyone or anyone will snitch on you and get you into more trouble.

What I have learned, with support from Venus, is that it’s best to talk about it with someone you can trust. I learned to trust Venus because all the staff are welcoming, happy, friendly and they tell me straight if I’m making a mistake, even when I don’t like what they’re saying. I haven’t got family to tell me or give me advice, Venus is the only family I know.

If I was to advise someone in the same situation as me, I would say to look at themselves, look at the situation they’re in and think about their children and the effect all those issues have on them. I’d also tell them to listen to social services, don’t rant and rave like I did. Work with them to make your children’s lives better and stop them going into care. Just because you’re scared, doesn’t mean you can hide from it and it won’t happen; you can do something before it gets too late.

Venus helped me improve my parenting. I used to let my kids get away with so much, my eldest used to be the parent and I was the child. Venus helped me learn about good parenting and become a better parent. I used to think I could solve my problems with violence and Venus helped me look at that behaviour and realise it’s not fair on my children. I had a bad attitude.

Venus listens, accepts you and helps you without judging you or the situation you’re in. With Venus’ help I realised I wasn’t born to be bashed, to be kicked, I wasn’t born to be a slave. I deserve a good life, nice things and a nice family – Venus helped me see that.”

Through her own determination to make better choices and address the barriers she faces, along with tailored support from Venus, Sally has developed better parenting skills, improved her mental health and wellbeing, developed healthy coping strategies, stopped substance misuse, escaped domestic violence and learned to recognise and build better relationships. Since her 5 children went into care, Sally has had a further 2 children who both live with her. She has made positive changes and worked with social services to ensure that her children are happy, healthy and well looked after at home with their mum.


Celebrating Volunteers’ Week

3 June 2016

As part of  Volunteers’ Week, we are celebrating all of the amazing volunteers that support our funded projects.

Tamana Miah, volunteer with Rethink

Despite only being 22, student Tamanna Miah has already been an active volunteer for 11 years, supporting a range of services in youth and community organisations. Here she tells us about her work with charity Rethink, and their Big Lottery funded programme Step Up: Transitions, that supports young people living with mental illness

“I like volunteering on Step Up: transitions for several reasons. Firstly because it’s a mental health project that uses the knowledge, skills and lived experience of young people like myself to create training for other young people (16-25 years) to help them deal with the impact of change on their mental health through one off and 6-session training. There’s not enough of this peer to peer aspect for young people in mental health and that’s a shame because when I deliver our training in schools, community centres and other places it’s this ‘young people to young people’ approach that means we can connect very quickly, in a more powerful, empathetic way. You can see a real difference from the start when everyone’s not sure what to expect and wondering if they should have come and then in an hour or so everyone is so engaged and wanting to get more involved . It’s great to feel I am a part of that.”

“I also really like being involved in Step Up: transitions because it’s a co-production project so I can really get hands-on experience in the whole process and drive it based on the issues I see all around me. I’ve been heavily involved in the planning, designing promotional materials, sitting on panels and of course delivering the training to young people across Islington, Lambeth and Hammersmith and Fulham so I feel like I really have ownership over this project and what we do with it. It’s also a very creative process, we often use drama or dance to connect with young people which I enjoy and I’m also coproducing the evaluation materials with the Tavistock Institute so that’s another set of skills I get to put into practice.”

“The final reason I enjoy volunteering on Step Up: Transitions is that it lets me integrate a lot the underlying causes of mental health that I am passionate about into our trainings such as bullying and racism, mental health support in BAME communities, the importance of early intervention and the impact of big changes such as starting university on your mental health.”

“The potential of co-production is that is becomes like a domino effect: if I can help one person then in turn they can help another and in the end we can create a culture shift. That’s what I’ve been spending these 11 years advocating for.”

Rethink helps people affected by mental illness by challenging attitudes, changing lives you can learn more by visiting their website (to be placed in as a link