The EFL Trust launch ‘Headstart’ to support children’s mental health

Year 6 children to receive mental health support to reduce NHS strain.

The EFL Trust, alongside four Club Community Organisations (CCOs) in Lancashire, are aiming to support children and their mental health through a new two-year project, Headstart, funded by Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Charity after successfully applying for an NHS Charities Together Grant.

Headstart is a new initiative being piloted across Lancashire and South Cumbria to support the mental health of year 6 children that are transitioning into secondary school. The EFL Trust have been awarded £333,709 from NHS Charities Together to deliver the programme alongside Fleetwood Town Community Trust, Preston North End Community Trust, Morecambe FC Community Sports and Accrington Stanley Community Trust. Following a pilot this year, the programme will be rolled out to the other EFL Club Community Organisations also located within the Lancashire and South Cumbria region.

The programme aims to reduce the strain on the NHS by targeting those children currently accessing or at risk of needing to access children’s mental health services. CCOs will work closely with local primary schools, their pupils and their families through a dedicated Mental Health Transformation Officer based in each CCO.

Mary Hewitt has joined Preston North End Community & Education Trust as a Mental Health Transformation Officer.

Programmes like Headstart have been accelerated after the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, raised concerns of the increasing rate of mental disorder in children. In 2020, one in six (16%) children aged 5 to 16 years were identified as having a probable mental disorder, increasing from one in nine (10.8%) in 2017.  This has been further impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and has seen waiting lists to access mental health services soar.

Adrian Bradley, Head of Health & Wellbeing at the EFL Trust, said:

“We are delighted to be delivering Headstart and in doing so are directly supporting the mental health of primary school children and their transition into secondary school. We hope that through Headstart we can intervene earlier and make a longer lasting positive impact on children’s lives and their wellbeing.

Our Club Community Organisations are well connected within the community, and health projects like Headstart can help us address local needs and achieve the EFL Trust’s vision of stronger, healthier, more active communities.”

­­­­­­­­­Ellie Orton OBE, Chief Executive of NHS Charities Together, said:

“Mental health problems have long been increasing among children, and sadly during the pandemic many of these issues were exacerbated further. Projects such as Headstart can help change this and we want to thank everyone at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, the EFL Trust and the key community organisations who have helped make this work possible. By increasing access to mental health support at a critical time in children’s lives, we can both take pressure off the NHS and make an important difference for vulnerable young people across Lancashire and South Cumbria.”

Paula Wilson, Head of Charities at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Charity, said:

“It has been a privilege to be able to support this amazing project that will help tackle some of the out-of-hospital healthcare issues that have been exacerbated over recent years by the COVID-19 pandemic.

I am looking forward to seeing the difference this funding will make to young people across Lancashire and South Cumbria.”