West Berkshire Council

Children's Commissioner visits Emotional Health Academy

Anne Longfield sees innovative scheme in action

2017 - Childrens Commissioner visits EHA

The Children's Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield made a special visit to the area on Wednesday 15 November. Anne came to find out more about the Emotional Health Academy, a unique West Berkshire scheme that is offering a new model of earlier help for young people who would normally have a long wait to access over stretched mental health services.

The visit came following a presentation by Sally Murray, Head of Children's Commissioning at Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Groups at a Westminster Education Forum Keynote Seminar on 'Priorities for children's mental health' highlighting West Berkshire's innovative new approach to meeting the emotional and mental health needs of children and young people.

The Emotional Health Academy is not a building but the name for a network of trained emotional health and wellbeing staff. These professionals work with young people and families to provide early, quick, responsive support. They also work closely with schools, GPs, voluntary sector, children's centres, the police and other organisations.

Many of the existing ways to get help with issues around emotional health are under pressure, and services are understandably slow to respond as a result. The Emotional Health Academy helps to join people up with the things they need more quickly and at an earlier stage, before problems get worse.

It's not designed to replace existing services, but to work alongside them. To date, the EHA has helped over 1000 children by simply listening to children and making help available at places where they feel safe to speak. The model has proved so successful it is now attracting international interest and is being replicated in several UK locations.

During her visit the Commissioner heard how families and partners are being empowered to support children and young people in the community.

She also met with a young person from a West Berkshire Pupil Referral Unit who told her about a project she has created to help schools to prevent school exclusions and to understand impacts on mental health and wellbeing from a young persons perspective. 

Anne Longfield, Children's Commissioner for England said: 

"Children's mental health is a really important, growing issue. I've just seen at first hand, this great example of how partners are working collaboratively in West Berkshire to look at and assess the needs of children quickly and effectively. I'm really impressed by the EHA and their high level of success in providing the right support at the right time. I'll be taking what I've seen today and sharing it with others to promote, and hopefully develop this more child centred approach."

Councillor Lynne Doherty,West Berkshire's Executive Member for Children and Young People said:

"We are delighted that Anne took the time to visit and by her positive reaction to the Emotional Health Academy. We are very proud of the results that EHA is achieving. It is a practical, proactive approach and we would love to see it replicated far and wide so that more young people can benefit from the early intervention it offers."

The Children's Commissioner is giving evidence at the Commons Health Select Committee for children's mental health on the 21 November and intends to share the good work of the Emotional Health Academy there.