#Focus5 have begun a pilot scheme this year to help young people in schools who are at risk of NEET (not in education, employment or training), to recognise how to improve their mental health and make the right decisions for their further education or careers.
We feel this could be a valuable service to young people who may have been focused on achieving GCSE results without appreciating what the future could hold for them. Equally, they may be struggling with mental health, confidence or self-esteem for a number of different reasons and whilst #Focus5 key workers are not qualified mental health practitioners, we are very good at helping young people to open up and talk - which is a crucial first step to identifying positive ways forward.
Interestingly, the majority of young people we are meeting who are most at risk of NEET and struggling are girls rather than boys.
We are trialling this approach in a handful of secondary schools working in partnership with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), who are also the managing authority for the England European Social Fund programme, who co-fund #Focus5.
Debbie Barsby, School Support Adviser for DWP in Somerset and Gloucester has said, “I am very pleased with how the first sessions have gone and look forward to working with #Focus5 to help deliver the remainder of the pilot programme.”
Louise Barnes, #Focus5 key worker who has been leading one of the trials gives a summary of progress so far:
"The initial meeting involved young ladies hearing about #Focus5 and each has engaged every week. They have gained valuable knowledge regarding life skills and explored career options for when they leave school. They have talked about employability and what is involved in terms of creating a CV, job searching, and applications. We have looked at strengths, skills and confidence building as well as discussing WHY subjects like Maths and English are so important. We have explored how to manage stress and anxiety better and the importance of not putting too much pressure on themselves and we've been looking at health relationships. The girls have also discussed life skills, organisational skills and ways to manage better routines. Being able to share and discuss many aspects of life in a safe place help their overall mental health and we have also been discussing tips for maintaining good mental health. Feedback so far is that the girls are enjoying the group and finding it really helpful."
The group sessions are spread over 6 weeks and include some initial self-assessment, mind mapping and motivational work, followed by some of the following activities:
- About Me - Will look at confidence building, self-esteem and identifying strengths, goals and outcomes.
- CV & Digital Skills - Will include producing a CV, creating an email account, opening a bank account, and other digital skills.
- Future - Will look at where young people want to be, using spider graphs and mind mapping. Sharing information about apprenticeships, job searching, traineeships, college and ad-hoc courses.
- Life Skills - Will include communication techniques, resilience training, healthy relationships, customer service skills, self-esteem, coping with anxiety, building confidence, overcoming barriers and life skills.
- 1:1 Session - Each participant will then get a 1:1 session with the key worker to complete a survey, look at applications for courses or employment, do further work on removing barriers to engagement and reducing any anxiety, doing another self-assessment and preparing for the future.
The #Focus5 project is funded by the European Social Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund.