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Supporting Young Minds

Investing in the mental health and wellbeing of young people in the South East

At Artswork, we believe in the power of the arts and creativity to fundamentally shape happier and healthier children and young people. Supporting Young Minds is a programme that aims to model best practice in the use of creativity to improve the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people, particularly in disadvantaged communities.

Artswork have provided Partnership Investment to five linked projects taking place in targeted areas of the South East, working at a local community level to commission new streams of place-based project activity work with expert partners from the arts and cultural sector. Arts Award delivery will be embedded across all projects, whilst all schools-focused strands will support increased registration for, and achievement of, Artsmark.

Supporting Young Minds activity is taking place in West Sussex, Reading, Oxfordshire, East Kent and the Isle of Wight. Artswork will co-ordinate the work regionally, supporting best practice around arts project delivery and mental health support through creative practice, as well as excellence in monitoring and evaluation outcomes. Information about individual projects can be found below.

Findings from this investment programme will ultimately be presented as high-quality research to meaningfully inform the national debate about cross-sectoral solutions to the youth mental health crisis. Find out more.

Supporting Young Minds projects

Five Supporting Young Minds projects are taking place across the South East, find out more about them below

East Kent and Medway

Flux: Navigating You in Times of Change is a programme made up of a series of creative arts interventions that aim to improve the mental health and wellbeing of marginalised children and young people who are at risk of self-harm, worsening mental ill health, and suicide, by providing them with tools to express themselves in new ways.

The programme is being delivered by a consortium of Kent-based partners, led by Living Words, with The Gulbenkian, Ideas Test and Community Art Kent, plus more, and work will take place with a number of groups across East Kent and Medway, including:

  • Young refugees
  • Young LGBTQIA+ self-harmers
  • Young people in crisis
  • Targeted young people referred through Kent County Council’s Suicide Prevention team and through Flux’s partners’ internal work to target overlooked groups and areas.

Strategic partners include Kent County Council’s Suicide Prevention Team and NHS Kent & Medway.


  • Gulbenkian has been working with young people at Kent Refugee Action Network (KRAN) and Spring Lane Neighbourhood Centre
  • Ideas Test with Da Base Music and Dante or Die, at Victory Academy and Will Adams Academy
  • Community Art Kent with Pie Factory Music and Dover SmART
  • Beats by Girlz represented by local musician Flo with a young person in-care
  • Living Words with Kent Libraries and young LGBTQIA+ individuals
  • Collaborations between Living Words artists and Flux practitioners have happened at Turner Free School and Dover Christ Church Academy
  • Flux’s recent collaboration with Shepway Youth Hub and local artists in Folkestone continues to develop into the future


West Sussex: targeting Crawley, Arun and Worthing

Building on a successful Creative Wellbeing Days pilot project with local schools, led by Creative County West Sussex (CCWS), this programme will extend opportunities to more children and young people through a new cohort of schools/academies in Crawley, Worthing and Adur – principally The Kemnal Academies Trust, one of the largest Multi-Academy Trusts in the South and East of England.

Evaluation with schools from the pilot project highlighted that anxiety in Year 6 & 7 pupils was especially heightened, so the programme will focus on transition points such as primary school to secondary, and secondary to post-16. It will reflect the needs of all students including mainstream, SEND pupils, Looked After Children, and young people who experience discrimination including racism.

CCWS will collaborate with a Wellbeing Taskforce, including West Sussex MIND, Waves Music Therapy, creative therapists and practitioners. The programme aims to establish a sustained year-round programme which supports the vision set by West Sussex County Council Children First Board. Recognising the importance of outdoor environments in supporting healthy minds, CCWS will develop opportunities for children and young people to explore outdoor cultural spaces for example with South Downs National Park. They will devise a range of creative approaches to enable young people to develop strategies, coping mechanisms, outlets and toolkits or resources to support their mental health and wellbeing journeys.

The programme will also target young people through youth settings, the West Sussex Virtual school and Looked After Children through a unique Care Pathways pilot scheme in Arun.


Creative Wellbeing Days Pilot Project


Isle of Wight

The Isle of Wight’s project focuses on ‘Creative Biosphere’. Inspired by the Island’s UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Status, it is enabling creative, physically active, outdoor experiences out-of-school for children and young people considered at risk of requiring access to a mental health service due to their circumstances. Experiences that will promote good mental health and wellbeing, and contribute to shaping active, heathy neighbourhoods and landscapes.

The programme is led by The Island Collection – host organization of the Isle of Wight Cultural Education Partnership (IW CEP) – and managed by IW CEP member organisation Independent Arts. Partners include Isle of Wight Youth Trust, Community Action Isle of Wight, Energise Me, Isle of Wight Council and Wight AONB.

Rooted in co-production, the Isle of Wight’s Supporting Young Minds will give agency to young people on the Isle of Wight to re-design how to utilise their environments, with activities that provide opportunities for investment in localised interventions. This will also be supported with a suite of professional development activities for creative and mental health practitioners, Arts Award qualification opportunities for young people and opportunities for Island based creatives. Activity already underway includes two place-based projects for Summer 2022, based in Newport and the Sandown/ Lake Area, working with Independent Arts and Isle of Wight Community Action respectively.

The Isle of Wight’s Supporting Young Minds connects thematically with a number of other Creative Biosphere programmes engaging different Island audiences with the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.



The Reading Cultural Education Partnership (CEP) will work locally to directly improve the wellbeing and life chances of children and young people in some of their most disadvantaged communities by commissioning new streams of project activity.


Participants will be identified through the CEPs schools’ network, targeting those schools that operate in the areas of highest deprivation. Young people will also access this project through after-school provision, to ensure that it meets the needs expressed through Brighter Futures for Children research, that not all young people want to access mental wellbeing support through school.  Additional mental health awareness and appropriate skills training will be delivered to the partners to upskill delivery partners and ensure an appropriate level of knowledge when dealing with potentially vulnerable young people. To ensure best possible chance of sustainable long-term outcomes, a mental health practitioner will be brought in to work alongside each of the project leads. This is to support and advise the development of each cultural organisations’ programme and make certain it has the most impact.



Oxfordshire Cultural Education Partnership’s Feeling Safe Project aims to deliver therapeutic arts activity for young people in both formal and informal settings in order to build a solid foundation prior to key transition years. The programme of activity will work directly with schools, and non-school settings such as youth groups and mental health support groups. Referrals to non-school based activity will come from a range of sources including CAMHS, Children’s Social Services and Oxfordshire County Council.

The project is made up of three strands:

  • Schools programme with young people in Year 5, Year 7/8 and Year 12: Working with delivery partners Art Bytes, The World Reimagined and local artists to create visual arts projects with 20 local schools, leading to an exhibition at Modern Art Oxford
  • Arts partner lead programmes with young people in Year 5, Year 7/8 and Year 12 – in both formal and informal settings: Based on needs following consultation with schools, young people and mental health support services in the county
  • Extension of projects piloted in North Oxfordshire, by North Oxfordshire Cultural Education Partnership, to other areas: Developing work to address the rural isolation and possible digital exclusion of young people living in less densely populated areas during the pandemic, recognising needs may be different than those of their urban counterparts

Each strand will create cultural and arts activity to support young people returning to school and in-person activity following the Covid-19 pandemic, to develop confidence, resilience and support positive mental health. Teachers involved in the programme will benefit from CPD in new art forms, supporting young people’s positive mental health with professional organisations such as Oxfordshire MIND, and delivery of Arts Awards and Artsmark.

Kids' hands next to each other. There are colourful faces drawn inside of their palms.


Programme Evaluation: Measuring the impact of arts and culture in supporting mental health and wellbeing

Artswork have contracted Sussex University Dept of Psychology, (Professor Robin Banerjee) to undertake an evaluation of the Supporting Young Minds Programme. We know that engaging young people in creative and cultural activities supports their well- being but there is less hard evidence on  which type of intervention gives impact and in what way. Through working with the University of Sussex we are aiming to understand better the impact that can happen through a creative arts intervention on children and young people’s wellbeing and mental health.

Our evaluators are producing a set of evaluation measures which will work across all five programmes and supporting the implementation of the evaluation measures. They will draw together and analyse the data from the five different programmes and produce an interim and final report.

Supporting Young Minds projects are supported as part of Artswork’s targeted Partnership Investment programme, a key strand of our work as Arts Council England’s South East Bridge organisation. By securing broader, non-arts, investment and brokering partnerships, Partnership Investment allows us to focus on long-term solutions rather than one-off interventions, changing the lives of children and young people through lasting and meaningful engagement. Through co-investment and collaboration with other organisations, we work to at least double amounts allocated, co-investing in solutions that embed arts and culture in the development of policy and practice.

Find out more about previous Partnership Investment programmes here


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