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Grant-making programme to support children's mental wellbeing launches

Announcing the Children and Young People’s Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing Grants Programme

The RCN Foundation is marking Children’s Mental Health Week 2022 with the announcement of a new three-year programme to support nursing-led interventions to improve the care for children and young people’s mental health and emotional wellbeing.

An online toolkit of bespoke resources and education programme will support non-specialist nurses, including school nurses, health visitors and emergency care nurses to better support children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing.

The programme launches with the announcement of two key initiatives:

  • The RCN Foundation is partnering with The Leathersellers’ Company Charitable Fund to offer grants for nurses to undertake postgraduate study in the field of mental health care for young people, with applications for grants opening in June 2022.

  • The University of Huddersfield has been awarded funding to create an app that supports ‘first responder’ nurses with mental health assessments. This phase of the programme will be complete in December 2022.

Need for support

Providing appropriate care to children and young people with mental health problems in the UK has been a growing challenge within healthcare. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly escalated this issue into a full-blown crisis.

Data from the Children Commissioners report 2022 shows that 1 in 6 children are currently demonstrating a probable mental health disorder. While waiting times for care are slowly improving, 10% of children referred for mental health support still had to wait longer than six weeks to access specialist care. 

In 2018, the RCN Foundation, brought together healthcare professionals, young service users, their carers, academics and charities in the field at a stakeholder event, enabling them to exchange ideas around the key issues and challenges facing children and young people’s mental health and emotional wellbeing. These discussions led to a call for scoping research into the issue.

Identifying the gaps

In 2019 Sheffield Hallam University was awarded funding by the RCN Foundation to carry out a scoping review into early nursing-led interventions to support children and young people’s mental health and emotional wellbeing (CYP MH&EW). The review involved exploring the literature published on these topics over the previous ten years.

Findings from the scoping review identified that nurses working in a variety of non-specialist settings were often the first to identify children and young people as they began to develop symptoms of poor mental health. These included school nurses, health visitors and emergency care nurses.

The research also found that these nurses, whilst ideally placed to identify and support children and young people, often lacked the specialist skills and training needed to address the challenges facing children and young people in crisis.

Creating a toolkit

These findings have led to the launch of a three-year programme of grant-making to create an online toolkit that develops bespoke resources for non-specialist nurses working with children and young people.

For the first phase of the CYP MH&EW toolkit, the University of Huddersfield are developing a web-based app of assessment tools that can be readily accessed by non-specialist nurses to assess the child or young person in that moment.

The second phase will focus on developing an app that supports the application of specific online interventions that have positive impacts on CYP wellbeing. This app will act as a guide for nurses as they cultivate therapeutic relationships with their charges, and help them identify other interventions which may help such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

The third phase will be to develop and deliver a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) that makes training in this area accessible to nurses in every part of the UK and beyond. Feedback from the apps will shape the curriculum offered through the MOOC.

Once these three phases are complete, the resources will be put together as a one-stop online toolkit for nurses on the RCN Foundation website.

Creating space for learning

The review also identified a need for non-specialist nurses to receive education in CYP MH&EW. The RCN Foundation has partnered with The Leathersellers’ Company Charitable Fund, a guild with the charitable aim of alleviating adverse circumstances of young people, to offer grants for postgraduate study in the area of responding to children and young people experiencing mental health crises.

The Leathersellers’ Company has committed £20,000 to this pilot project, matched with £10,000 from the RCN Foundation. This will enable the project to train a cohort of nurses in this aspect of care over the next 12 months.

Deepa Korea, Director of the RCN Foundation, said: "Developing the practical tools and guidance that nurses need, and supporting them with education grants, will enable us to tackle head on the growing mental health crisis facing children and young people, and make a positive difference to their futures."