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Creative Commissioning for Children & Young People's Mental Health

Young people’s mental health is an area of growing concern nationally, with increasing attention focusing on evidence of deteriorating wellbeing for the UK’s children and young people. This has been exacerbated by the impacts of Covid- 19.

“The number of young people with a probable mental illness has risen to 1 in 6,
up from 1 in 9” 

Princes Trust Tesco Youth Index Report 2021

Evidence also suggests that young people experiencing deprivation are likely to be the most impacted by poor mental health, spotlighting the needs of children and young people in Littlehampton, Bognor Regis and the surrounding areas in particular.

Young people’s mental health and wellbeing in Arun is a priority focus for Artswork alongside the Arun Wellbeing Team and West Sussex Health and Wellbeing Board. Since 2020 we have supported a range of projects in partnership with local community and youth groups, schools and strategic partners such as Active Sussex.

In 2020, Arun Inspires, working in partnership with Active Sussex with support from the NHS LCN, commissioned 4 local groups in Arun in 2020 to set up new projects combining creativity and physical activity and measuring their outcomes using robust mental health outcome measures. Groups were led by Sussex Clubs for Young People, Arun Youth Projects, UCanSprayCIO, and Freedom Leisure.

Testimony and date about the first round of commissions can be explored in this short film, produced to record the project’s impact:

This project aimed to support local youth and community organisations to develop their arts skills in using creativity to support young people’s mental health, as a way of developing the local third sector towards readiness for social prescribing for under 18s. We are advocating for this outcome in the District, working in partnership with the National College of Social Prescribing.

As part of this work, we have developed a new resource for arts, community and youth groups in Arun (and beyond) to support fundraising and advocacy for running creative mental health projects by making best use of evidence and data.

In 2021, we commissioned a second round of wellbeing and mental health focused projects for young people in the District.

  • Wave Music Therapy: a collaboration between young people, music therapists and community practitioners to engage and inspire the young people to use music for self expression, communication and positive interaction. The overall objective will be to improve well-being and supporting mental wellness with every sessions music making completed led by the young person. 
  • Family Support Work: Families & Their Journeys in and Out of Lock Down- a series of creative workshops for families from diverse vulnerable backgrounds including for SEND families and asylum seekers in Littlehampton with children of varying ages from preschool to teenagers using a wide variety of arts activities to support families who have been intensely affected by the pandemic to express their feelings and experiences.      
  • My Sisters House:  Leave her Wild, a series of workshops for Mother and Daughters escaping domestic violence to connect, explore and play together through therapeutic creative arts work.  
  • The Treasure Baskets Association: a series of art workshops that will be both therapeutic and educational for two groups of children at Nyewood Primary  (Pevensey Wards, Bognor Regis) children (aged 7 to 11) selected by the SENCO at risk of failing academically due to their needs for emotional support being unmet.   
  • Saltwater Creations: Running ‘Vitamin Sea’ mental health & wellbeing workshops with identified groups of disadvantaged children at two local infant schools.
  • Felpham Community College: a project for a new group of particularly disadvantaged students, expressing their experiences and feelings around the pandemic through creating a number of murals in school, in order to improve the wellbeing and creative skills of a targeted cohort of young people; strengthen the arts offer within school through partnership with a new artist and introduce Arts Awards into the school.
  • The Angmering School: working with Freedom Leisure and Academy Dance Society to deliver hip hop dance session to young people at risk in the school. 

Going forward, we will be looking to build on these pilot projects, with young people from Arun Youth Council taking the lead on developing and exploring combining physical activity including dance and golf with creative activities like design, music making and large scale mural making to demonstrably improve young people’s wellbeing.

Learn more about Arun Cultural Changemaker by visiting the programme homepage here.

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