With Kids, a Children’s Mental Health Charity who have been operating a vital support service in Wester Hailes since 2011, have sadly announced that they will have to drastically reduce mental health support they offer to children and families due to not being recommended to receive funding.
With Kids offers professional therapeutic mental health interventions for children in the form of play therapy in tandem with support for families through the provision of emotional and practical and group support which helps to connect families and build community.
Over the last 15 months over 750 therapeutic sessions have been provided for local children with mental health difficulties through With Kids Wester Hailes Children’s Zone Project, as well as two family workers providing much needed support to local parents and carers. Up until October 2020, this project was funded through the Scottish Government’s Aspiring Communities Fund. With Kids application to the Edinburgh City Council Third Party grants scheme seeking funding to continue the running of the service at this level and to expand wider to include more of the South West was sadly turned down and while they have worked hard to try to secure continuation funding elsewhere, they have not been successful so far. This means that sadly much of the service With Kids can offer to Wester Hailes is now drastically reduced – only 1 therapist, able to offer just 5 sessions a week to local children and no family support service at all.
John Marr, With Kids Edinburgh Manager:
Communities are going through one of the most difficult times in recent history and sadly, it’s the communities who are most deprived that are most severely affected. The last thing local people need is for trusted services to disappear right now. Our colleagues in Education are reporting that behavioural difficulties have increased and that the lockdown has had a major impact on the emotional health and well-being of pupils. Mental Health and Wellbeing is supposed to be a key priority for the Scottish Government right now, particularly that of children. Small, grass roots third sector organisations like us are in a very good position to help with that, we have the relationships and the local knowledge of the neighbourhoods we work in but upsettingly it’s these small charities who are being hit the hardest by the current situation. Financial support to help avoid loss of third sector services like what’s happening here would be money well spent. All that unmet needs is only going to fall back on statutory services which are already over stretched.
In a recent survey of local professionals who had referred to the service and 100% expressed extreme concern if the service was no long able to operate. It’s well known that when it comes to mental health support for children, waiting lists are extremely long, one Wester Hailes GP reflected:
There is no alternative and a desperate need – it would be a disaster for Wester Hailes to lose With Kids and for the families it supports to be abandoned. The burden would fall to an already overstretched primary care service which is a much more expensive resource. Organisations such as With Kids are essential. Without them, Health Care professionals have nothing to offer desperate families reaching out for our help and their unmet need creates a huge workload for primary care which we are not equipped to deal with. CAMHS is not able to be responsive and so does not really offer a solution to the mental health burden experienced by children and families, in particular in deprived communities like the one in which I work. The waiting list is is many months long and the referral criteria by necessity exclusive, so it does not offer any form of a solution to the problems we are faced with daily in deprived communities.
There is some hope for community based mental health support organisations like With Kids, who have weathered the storm, yet not unscathed as the Scottish Government announce £15m in funds to support mental health services for children, young people and families.
The Minister for Mental Health Clare Haughey said:
The pandemic has been very hard for everyone, but for many children and young people it has been particularly difficult. Families have told us they need more support for mental and emotional distress and for their wellbeing and resilience, delivered in a community setting.
A parent who has benefited from multiple parts of the service offered through With Kids Children’s Zone project over the last year had this to say:
We’ve had so much help from With Kids. I started first coming to the Kinship Carers Support group where I could get help from other kinship carers who’d been doing it longer than me. It was through the group I learned that I could get therapy for Josh. The difference in him has been massive, he’s not as angry as he was and he understands his feelings better about not being with his Mum, that it’s ok to be angry and sad about it and his therapist helped him find healthy ways to get that out. He writes letters to his Mum now telling him how he feels and his relationship with me is much better. Even through lock down, he still had his therapy by video and would ask me to join in. That would never have happened before! I also started helping out at the family group that the With Kids family worker ran so being at With Kids was a huge part of our week. It’s really worrying that it’s had to stop families get tired of starting over again and again with new workers when funding stops. We’re all crossing our fingers that there is some good news soon.
Unfortunately this parent is just one of many affected by the unavoidable interruption in the mental health, community and family support service that With Kids provide to over 250 local families. With several funding applications already in and awaiting responses, With Kids has their fingers crossed for some good news too.