Mental health of kids in Blackpool improved with dogs, horses and therapy

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Blackpool was one of six areas in the country chosen to take part in the programme

 

A general view of Blackpool from above
A general view of Blackpool from above (Image: Getty)

A multi million pound project to boost the mental wellbeing of Blackpool children has improved outcomes for thousands of youngsters, according to a new report.

The HeadStart programme is due to come to an end in July this year after being awarded £10m of National Lottery funding in 2016.

Operating under the banner of the Resilience Revolution, it has forged partnerships with all 44 schools in the town, and worked with another Lottery funded scheme BetterStart which is aimed at pre-school children.

Blackpool was one of six areas nationally chosen to take part in the programme to develop a community approach to supporting mental health among young people.

Since its inception, HeadStart has provided nearly 77,000 opportunities for youngsters aged between 10 and 16 to take part in resilience building activities.

These have ranged from providing therapy dogs in schools, using horse riding to improve self esteem and walk and talk therapy to provide an alternative form of counselling to children at risk of self-harm.

The scheme has also seen the launch of the Blackpool Beating Bullying campaign which has gained national recognition.

A report being presented to a special meeting of Blackpool Council’s children and young people’s scrutiny committee on Wednesday (January 12), says it was ” found that young people who are engaged in activities fare better than
expected.”

This includes those “facing complex disadvantages” who have benefited from targeted intervention.

Outcomes have included better support for children who self-harm, and fewer pupils being excluded from school.

The report says since HeadStart was launched, 99.5 per cent of
young people receiving a targeted Resilience Revolution (RR) intervention have not been permanently excluded from school.

In addition 82 per cent of young people have not returned to A&E with self-harm injuries or risks since receiving specialist support from the resilience coaches.

The report adds: “Our report shows a wealth of evidence that all
aspects of life – family, friends, school, and career – have been transformed
with enhanced relationships, renewed aspirations, and increased learning
opportunities.”

It is now hoped to continue the work started by Headstart once the funding ends.

The report says: “Our next challenge, in the final phase of the HeadStart programme, is to build a legacy that will enable the successful areas of the RR to continue once the funding has ceased.”