Resources for Learning Mentors: Group Work Activities for Working with: Vulnerable Children, White Working Class Boys, Teenage Girls and a Course to Promote Mental Health and Wellbeing


Pamela Allen

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    I would like to thank the Interim Accommodation Sites staff in Sheffield, UK for allowing me to develop resources in collaboration with them. The work with vulnerable children has been challenging and fun. The willingness and passion from the workers at the site to improve the emotional climate for the young people they work with was humbling. I would like to thank Matt Scrivens, the homeless children's development worker, for supporting this pilot in his centre, in particular, his endless energy and commitment for wanting to get the resources right so that they could be used confidently in an informal play environment, was inspirational. Thanks to Raj and Sara, the play workers who tolerated us interrupting their normal play session and who provided honest and open feedback in the evaluation of the programme, and Peter Eggington, who has supported the staff to think creatively. Thanks also to Bea Kay who got me involved and helped me to pilot these materials.

    Most importantly, I would like to thank the young people themselves who were living on the interim accommodation site during late 2004 and the beginning of 2005 and to the young people who took part in the school based programmes. They participated and engaged in the activities with great zest and gave feedback that was honest and direct. This brought to life the programmes, helped us to generate new ideas and to learn from our mistakes. Thank you all for being interested and having a go.

    I would also like to thank the schools in Sheffield, especially the Learning Mentors who have collaborated with me in piloting resilience building groupwork programmes for children and young people in their schools. Particular thanks go to Parkwood School, Fir Vale School, Yewlands School, Chaucer School, (especially Marissa Palmer for co-facilitating the boys' group), Richard Hunt, Dianne Bradshaw and Cathy Charles who supported the running of the boys' group, Vicki Ransome and Rebecca Allard who collaborated with me in developing the girls' programme and Liz Jaques, who supported me running a girls' group.

    I would also like to thank my colleagues in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services in Sheffield who have supported me. Finally I would like to thank my family – my husband who supports and encourages me in all my work and my two children who inspire me to always want the best for other young people I meet.



    I am very pleased to be able to write the foreword for this set of comprehensive, well thought-through and evaluated group work programmes. They are written on the premise that by building resilience, promoting a child's sense of self-worth or esteem and increasing emotional literacy, mental health can be improved or the impact of problems diminished. Various research has found that preventative or promotion programmes need to be focused on particular risk factors in order to be most effective, which these resources are.

    Children's and young people's behaviour is often responded to negatively and negatively labelled without a consideration of the risk and resilience factors that may be in place for that individual. This pack of resources gives a reminder to think about these factors and provides materials to promote resilience. Although some programmes are targeted at particular groups, many of the group exercises can be used with all young people as a universal intervention.

    The materials are very thorough and guide the reader from an introduction to the programme through to the use and importance of evaluation. I would therefore recommend following the programmes as they are written. They can be used in suitable ready-made group settings, such as within PSHE, or for groups that are set up specifically for this purpose.

    The resources are compatible with all the major policy drivers for children and young people, most of which now recognise the importance of mental health promotion and problem prevention and the links with other aspects of a child's life. Every Child Matters: Change for Children (ECM) (2004) and the National Service Framework for Children, Young People and Maternity Services (NSF) (Department of Health and Department for Education and Skills, 2004) work alongside one another, mental health contributing to all the ECM standards but most obviously to the Be Healthy Standard. Standard 9 of the NSF – the Mental Health and Psychological Wellbeing of Children and Young People – states that all children should have access to supportive environments, and that there should be specific activities such as the provision of education to increase awareness of mental health issues, and that support should be provided for those with particular needs. These materials cover these aspects of mental health promotion and problem prevention.

    Standard 9 also reminds us that the provision of early intervention may make a significant difference to children and their parents or carers, which is reiterated in Removing Barriers to Achievement: SEN Strategy (2004). This ensures that the link between good mental health and achievement are understood. These links are also clear within the National Healthy Schools Standard agenda and the Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL) (DfES, 2005) which Mark Heaton has commented on in the foreword of the Healthy Minds chapter of this resource. Ofsted have also recognised that schools have a vital role to play in promoting children's mental health and in the early identification and prevention of mental health problems.

    People who are mentally healthy also make healthier choices about their physical health as well as being more physically healthy, an idea incorporated into The Public Health White Paper – Choosing Health; Making Healthy Choices Easier (2006). The European Green Paper Improving the Mental Health of the Population: Towards A Strategy on Mental Health for the European Union supports early intervention very clearly:

    as mental health is strongly determined during the first few years of life, promoting mental health in children and adolescents is an investment for the future.

    Overall, with the significant raise in the prevalence of psychosocial disorders (depression, eating disorders, substance misuse, suicide and suicidal behaviour and conduct disorders) in young people between the ages of 12 and 26 in Western developed countries since the end of the Second World War (Rutter and Smith, 1995) and the acknowledgement that mental health problems in children and young people are associated with educational failure, family disruption, disability, offending and anti-social behaviour, it is in the interests of all agencies to work towards promoting mental health and prevention of problems. If they are not addressed it can lead to more distress for the child and their families and carers, and may continue into adult life and affect the next generation. With this in mind, these materials are to be welcomed as a resource for good practice for Learning Mentors.

    JaneSedgewickCAMHS Regional Development Worker (Yorkshire and the Humber), National CAMHS Support Service, part of the Care Services Improvement Partnership.
  • Activities to Promote Self-Esteem, Emotional Literacy and Resilience in Vulnerable Children and Young People

    Just for Lads Activities to Promote Resilience and Self-Esteem in White Working Class Boys

    Girls Own Activities to Promote Resilience and Self-Esteem, Assertiveness and Resilience

    Healthy Minds Workshop a Course to Promote Mental Health and Well-Being

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