Innovative mental health project supports young people in Norfolk

An innovative project in Norfolk has been working with local charities and community groups to support the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people.

The Sir Norman Lamb Coalition for Young People was established in November 2020 by the former Member of Parliament for North Norfolk, Sir Norman Lamb, and the Norfolk Community Foundation to help tackle the increasing mental health crisis experienced by young people in the county.

Nationally, 1 in 6 children were identified as having a mental health problem in 2021 (Young Minds, 2021), with 1 in 4 young people reporting they are ‘unable to cope with life’ since Covid-19 (The Prince’s Trust, 2021). Faced with long waiting times to access clinical services coupled with the impact of Covid-19 on their mental wellbeing, many children and young people in Norfolk have not been getting the support they need.

Data produced by Kooth, an online counselling service commissioned in 2020 by the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust for 11 to 25-year-olds, showed in the East of England during the first national lockdown a marked rise in concerns about domestic abuse, child abuse, eating issues and struggles with body image, and the greatest increase nationally in sadness, anxiety about returning to school or college and young people with autism or Asperger’s seeking support.

Seeking to address the ongoing mental health crisis, the Coalition brings together nearly 50 voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations from across Norfolk working in mental health, learning disability and autism and with children, teenagers and young adults. Supported by the Sir Norman Lamb Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund, set up by Sir Norman after standing down from Parliament in 2019, the Fund awarded £55,000 in grants in 2021 and last month awarded a further £75,000 to local charities and community groups.

An external evaluation of the impact of the grants awarded in 2021 found that 90% of young people reported that their wellbeing had improved, as well as a rise in levels of confidence to talk about their mental health, being able to ask for help if needed and knowledge of where to go for support. The funded projects delivered nearly 15,000 hours of support to young people across Norfolk, at a cost of less than £68 per young person. This is in stark contrast to the £12.1 billion (14.8%) of NHS commissioner budgets spent on mental health in 2021/22, and the estimated economic and social cost of £119 billion a year.

Since being established, the Coalition has provided a total of £250,000 worth of support to member organisations across the county, including direct funding and training. Holt Youth Project were one of the charities to receive funding in 2021 to support their activities including their ‘Reboot’ project for vulnerable NEET (not in education, employment or training) young men with poor mental health. Tom (name changed for privacy) received support from the programme after experiencing severe depression originating from difficulties he experienced when he was at school. Thanks to help attributed to the project, Tom’s life has dramatically changed and now volunteers at the RNLI and is holding down a part-time job as a security officer.

How you can help

Donations to the Sir Norman Lamb Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund can be made online, by phone on 01603 623958 or by sending a cheque made payable to Norfolk Community Foundation (referencing Norman Lamb on the reverse of the cheque) to Norfolk Community Foundation, St. James Mill, Whitefriars, Norwich, NR3 1TN.

“We know that half of all mental disorders start by the age of 14 and the need to focus on prevention to stop mental health problems from arising or deteriorating is clear. There are many local charities and community groups who are already making an outstanding difference to lives across Norfolk but need funding and support to sustain and grow their work. I believe we can make Norfolk an exemplar, demonstrating to the rest of the country how we can be innovative in providing better community support. I would implore anyone interested in what we are doing to get in touch and support this work to help build a brighter future for our children and young people.”

Sir Norman Lamb

Sir Norman standing in front of Cromer Pier
Sir Norman Lamb
“Many witnessed first-hand during the Covid-19 pandemic the vital role that our charities play in providing essential support to local communities and it is no different when it comes to supporting our young people’s wellbeing. Across the county, voluntary and community run youth work services are playing a key role in keeping young people connected, reducing detrimental and risky behaviours such as substance abuse, and in providing a place of respite and sanctuary. By continuing to give the funding and support these organisations need, we can invest not only in them but in our young people’s future.”

Claire Cullens, Chief Executive of Norfolk Community Foundation

Published: 20th April 2022