Children’s mental health remains top priority for Richmond upon Thames Voluntary Fund

Release Date: 02 February 2021

Children’s and youth mental health charities will remain the focus for the Richmond upon Thames Voluntary Fund, as local organisations face increased demand with more and more young people and children needing support due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Richmond upon Thames Voluntary Fund (Registered Charity No. 1186870) is a charitable trust that has been set up to collect donations from residents for specific vulnerable groups, where there is a need for additional funding for help and support.  

The Trustees decided that, in 2021, the Fund will continue to support children’s and youth mental health for a second year. After the first national lockdown in 2020, approximately one in six children was identified as having a probable mental health disorder. Lack of interaction with friends, access to sports and social activities, plus worries about education and their futures, have all led to increased levels of anxiety in young people and children. 

The Fund is chaired by Gillian Norton OBE DL, former Chief Executive of Richmond Council. She is now the Chair of St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Chair of Epsom St Helier Hospitals Trust and Representative Deputy Lieutenant for Richmond upon Thames. Other Trustees include the Leader of Richmond Council (Cllr Gareth Roberts), and the Leaders of the opposition groups (Cllr Paul Hodgins and Cllr Richard Bennett).

This year’s appeal is launching during Children’s Mental Health Week, to mark the selected charity beneficiaries for 2021: Off The Record, Richmond Borough Mind, Marble Hill Playcentres and Dose of Nature.

Off The Record provides the only free drop-in counselling, information and sexual health service for young people aged 11–24 living, working or studying in the borough of Richmond. In making a donation to the Richmond Voluntary Fund, you could provide the following help and support to Off The Record:

  • £55 could provide a crisis counselling session for a young person in need
  • £500 could provide a young person with a full counselling programme with an experienced counsellor
  • £1,000 could enable 18 young people in crisis to access immediate support with an experienced counsellor

Richmond Borough Mind offer free mental health awareness assemblies and workshops to every primary and secondary school in the borough and work alongside the schools to promote better mental health. Their specialist workshops cover important issues from cyber bullying to exam stress and anxiety.

In making a donation you could provide the following help and support to young people:

  • £29 could provide a weekly place on an after-school support programme
  • £105 could provide five 1:1 youth peer mentor sessions
  • £120 could provide a school assembly and year group workshops on mental health support.
  • £1,740 could provide a six-week, peer mentor led mental health and wellbeing programme for ten young people in schools

Dose of Nature offers a number of opportunities, presentations and programmes, appropriate for children and young people of all ages. Their workshops combine classroom-based learning about the mental health benefits of spending more time in nature, with practical outdoor nature-based activities. 

  • £100 could cover the cost of a young person attending a 6-week course, learning how nature can help support their mental health
  • £350 could cover the cost of a young person’s Dose of Nature Prescription, including 10 1:1 sessions, plus unlimited access to nature-based groups

Marble Hill Playcentres’ mission is to unlock the power of play and the magic of community, providing inclusive, supportive and sustainable play and education services to all children and families. In a normal year they would have around 10,000 visits.   

  • £50 could provide an expert SEN playworker to support children with SEN at one of their SENsational Saturday Club sessions
  • £300 could provide a playcentre season-pass for a child to experience the wonderful world of adventure play with their peers
  • £1,200 could fund an expert SEN playworker for one month to support children’s engagement with the adventure playground

Residents living in Band G and H properties will be written to directly by the Council, asking them if they would like to make a voluntary donation to the Trust. All residents are invited to make a donation online

Gillian Norton OBE DL, Chair of the Richmond Voluntary Fund, said:

"The pandemic has had a detrimental impact on our children and young people, and many will feel the lasting effects throughout the rest of their lives. They have experienced school closures, a continued restriction of social interactions and the sudden disappearance of many of activities and opportunities that play a fundamental role in supporting their future successes.

"Demand on children and youth mental health services has always increased every year, but now we are seeing a huge increase in demand every day. The evidence shows, if young people don’t get the help they need when they are young, there are huge ramifications in later life. We simply cannot let the pandemic ruin the future of our children and young people.

"Last year we raised a staggering amount, over £110,000 for our chosen charities. With the help of residents' donations, we will be able to assist local charities again to support even more young people."

Cllr Robin Brown, Trustee for the Richmond Voluntary Fund, said:

"The Council and other partners invest thousands of pounds every year in our voluntary sector, enabling them to provide vital mental health support to vulnerable young people. However, now more than ever, we need support from the community to ensure these organisations can continue to operate and upscale to meet increasing demand.

"I would like to be in a position for the Council to give more funding. However, in addition to the continued Government cuts to our budget, we are now facing a major shortfall as a result of the COVID-19 response. At the end of 2020 this shortfall was £6 million, but as we continue to face an indefinite lockdown, this figure is rapidly increasing. We simply cannot do this alone.

"The Richmond upon Thames Voluntary Fund will enable residents to help us try and bridge the gap. Thank you to everyone who is able to support this appeal.” 

Deborah, Off The Record Manager, said:

"A third of the young people in Richmond borough come to us at Off The Record for help. They come from all backgrounds, struggling with depression, isolation, loneliness, bereavement and anxieties about relationships, health and finances. 36% of them self-harm. 30% feel suicidal. COVID-19 has made all these issues far worse, and are affecting more young people.

"At Off The Record we are working hard to reach out and support them through Zoom counselling and face-to-face where possible. Their feedback shows our support is really helping. Over 90% of them tell us their lives are improved considerably after seeing our counsellors.

"As an independent charity, our counselling is free and confidential, so the young people trust us when they don’t feel able to tell anyone else. We give your children a lifeline when they need it. Right now with COVID-19 they are needing our lifeline more than ever. As a local charity we rely on grants and donations to keep us running. Your support helps us to help your children when they feel they have nowhere else to go."

Roy, Operations Manager at Richmond Borough Mind, said:

"National research by Mind reveals three in five (59%) secondary school pupils have either experienced mental health problems themselves or are close to someone who has. Information like this is not news to us here at Richmond Borough Mind, particularly as we have the third highest rate of hospital admissions for self-harm, and the average mental well-being score for 15-year olds in Richmond is the fourth worst in London.  

"This additional funding will allow us to build on our current work supporting children and young people, delivering a range of wellbeing and resilience workshops to equip individuals with the tools, skills and knowledge to look after their own, and others', emotional health."

Alison, Director and Psychologist, Dose of Nature, said:
"We are delighted to have been chosen as one of the beneficiaries of the Richmond Voluntary Fund. During the pandemic we have seen a huge increase in demand for our service, and in particular amongst young people aged 16-25 years. The extra funding will enable us to deliver our nature prescriptions to many more of these young people, improving their mental health through an increased engagement with the natural world, and providing them not only with the support they need now, but with a new understanding that will benefit their mental wellbeing for the rest of their lives."

Julie, Trustee of Marble Hill Playcentres, said:

"There are many children in our communities who do not have access to safe and social play at their own homes and who have been hugely impacted by the pandemic, which has restricted the expression and freedom of play for many months. This funding will enable us to provide free playcentre passes for children whose families are on a low income or have become vulnerable such as through domestic abuse and stressful home situations, giving them access to a summer of liberating play with their friends and other young people. This is so important to rebuild their confidence and connections, following extended time at home due to the pandemic." 

"The funding will also enable Marble Hill Playcentres to provide an additional expert SEN Playworker to run fun activities for children with Special Educational Needs, rebuilding their confidence and peer friendship groups through playing on the rope swings, constructing dens, getting messy with crafts and much more."

For more information, or to donate, visit Richmond upon Thames Voluntary Fund.

If you are concerned about a young person’s mental health, you can find out more information on how to get support by contacting the Single Point of Access team on 020 8547 5008 or use the SPA referral form.

If you need to speak to someone urgently after hours or at the weekend, call the Out of Hours team on 020 8770 5000. More information can be found at Achieving for Children (AfC).

Notes for editors

If you are a journalist and would like further information about this press release, contact Effie Lochrane on 020 8487 5162.

Reference: P050/21

Updated: 24 March 2021