Last week was a good week for a mini recess with rumour and counter-rumour swirling around Westminster. It allowed me some time to get around the constituency.
The high point of my week was a visit to the Emotional Health Academy in Newbury. This is a scheme absolutely unique to West Berkshire which is doing extraordinary work with children and young people who are experiencing emotional and mental health difficulties. In a nutshell it is putting in place that vital early intervention that has been talked about for over 20 years since the Layard Report. It’s happening right here on our doorstep and it’s working.
Spearheaded by West Berkshire Council’s Children and Families service, alongside voluntary sector partners, the local NHS, schools and GPs, the EHA is a network of professionals who work with young people and families to provide early, quick, responsive support. It grew from a determination to listen to the children involved, to find out what they needed and where they needed it. The team meets on a weekly basis to discuss cases and put in place the appropriate response. And it is having remarkable results. I watched a video where young people spoke about how the EHA has changed their perspective and enabled them to cope with issues that were causing them stress and anxiety. They spoke very frankly and with extraordinary maturity. It was powerful evidence of the EHA’s success.
At a time when many of the existing ways to get help with issues around emotional and mental health are under pressure, the EHA helps to join young people up with the help they need more quickly and at an earlier stage, before their problems escalate. It’s not designed to replace existing services but to work alongside them. It has already reached over 1,000 children and young people and an astonishing 80% of those who received support reported marked improvement in their well-being.
When statistics tell us that fifty per cent of all mental health problems are established by the age of 14, this form of early intervention makes sense in every possible way and, not surprisingly, NHS England, the Department for Education and several other local authorities are beating a path to West Berkshire’s door. I want to shout from the roof tops about this ground-breaking scheme and the work that Lynne Doherty, West Berks’s Executive Member for Children and Young People, and her team are doing. It should be happening absolutely everywhere.