Right Here Newham
Right Here Newham was led by New Choices for Youth Trust (NCYT), a generic youth organisation based in the London Borough of Newham with a history of working on training and development.
Core partners were Newham Asian Women’s Project and Harmony Training. The Partnership Board also included local voluntary sector providers and experts, such as Mellow, University of East London, YoungMinds and the local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS).
The London Borough of Newham is an inner-city East London borough. It is one of the most deprived boroughs in the country, with 64 per cent of residents from BME backgrounds. Employment rates are low and all wards are in the 20 per cent most deprived in the country. The London Borough of Newham has the fifth-highest level of mental health need.
The area has historically high levels of gang crime and violence, which even when not experienced directly can affect young people’s wellbeing. Young people often report that they do not feel safe. A significant number of young people in the London Borough of Newham face the risk of entering the criminal justice system, of being involved in or exposed to gang activity, or have experienced forced marriage and traumatic events such as domestic violence.
Research shows that there are many barriers to Newham’s young people accessing mental health services, such as lack of trust in the system, stigma, honour and shame, and fear surrounding the issue of confidentiality. In 2009, when Right Here began, BME young people were not accessing available early intervention mental health services in Newham. Accordingly, one of the key aims of this project was to address this by increasing awareness of services among these groups and identifying the reasons why they are not being used. There was a perception that many available services do not fully cater for the 16–25-year-old age group and do not fully understand the needs of the local population.
The young people
The project successfully targeted young black African and Caribbean men and young Asian women.
From the start, the project had a strong and active panel of young men and women who played a central role in making decisions about the overall focus of the work: the effects of violence on young people’s mental health; isolation; and lack of access to appropriate services. The young people also supported the recruitment of staff, commissioned a number of projects from other local providers, and took part in a range of consultations – including about local CAMHS and with the Scrutiny and Mental Health Commissioning Committees – and events in order to highlight the issues that concerned them to local decision-makers.
Latterly, the youth panel was split into two activity teams – for events and for training – and the commission function was stopped.
Right Here Newham’s flagship Wellbeing Champions Programme was a peer support programme that enabled young people from the project’s partner organisations and other local organisations to develop attractive activities, such as cooking, drama workshops, or pampering sessions, to promote mental health in their communities and build the confidence and resilience of the champions themselves.
The Wellbeing Champions undertook a 10-week accredited training programme to develop their own understanding and ideas about mental wellbeing and to take what they had learnt into schools and other community settings. Each of the weekly sessions included group discussion where young people learnt to challenge one another to think in new ways about mental health and also worked on their own presentations about mental wellbeing.
Film and drama
The project used a variety of non-traditional approaches, including film, drama and music, to explore issues that young people face. For example, in 2013, young people from Right Here Newham worked with Headliners, a film production company, to develop a film showing how their involvement in the project had changed them.
The ‘Mindfull’ event at Stratford Circus in 2012 used drama, discussion, film and music to highlight the stresses young people commonly face, and how they might be addressed. It brought young people together with youth workers, mental health practitioners, policymakers and commissioners to look afresh at Iwhat could be done to improve the support provided to young people in the London Borough of Newham.
Young men’s group
This group at a local sixth form college, the NewVic, was set up to create a non-threatening environment for disaffected young men to help build their confidence and social skills and create opportunities to talk about the issues that mattered to them. The group, which ran over 12 weeks, with excellent attendance, was led by a community development worker from Right Here Newham.
Outreach and engagement
Right Here Newham was particularly effective in reaching out to young people in the borough who didn’t and wouldn’t access mental health services. Project volunteers set up shop in barber shops, hairdressers and nail bars to find out what their peers thought about the issues that affect young people’s mental health.
The project also commissioned a number of opportunities for young people that looked to deliver mental health and wellbeing outcomes in ways appropriate to young people who would not attend more traditional mental health and wellbeing activities. One of these, a boxing project, funded an established boxing gym to extend informal mental health and mentoring support to young people.
What’s happening now?
Mental health and wellbeing have been integrated into all of the activities NCYT now provides. The charity continues to deliver the Wellbeing Champions Programme, which is now being offered to voluntary groups in Haringey with public health funding secured in partnership with Tottenham Hotspur’s Football Club.
NCYT is also working with the Royal London Hospital on a support programme for young people aged 16–25 who experience trauma and need ongoing support. The charity provides a Rapid Response out-of-hours support service for young people who are taken to hospital, with support provided by young people trained by NCYT.