Project Future in the spotlight

Project Future in the spotlight
05 December 2017

BEH’s Project Future is being held up as a ground-breaking way to support the mental health of marginalised young people and prevent their return to the criminal justice system.

That’s according to the Centre for Mental Health who have called on mental health service providers and commissioners to look at Project Future as a template which other councils and mental health providers across the country to adopt.

The report says NHS commissioners should pool budgets with local authorities, police and others to offer long-term funding to services who help people who have poor access to service.

Project Future, now in its third year helps young people in Haringey who are disengaged, excluded, and may be gang members. The project helps them get back into education, employment and training, as well as engage with mental health services.

The report’s authors point out that material, social and racial disadvantages increase the risk of poorer wellbeing and offending among young people growing up in the most deprived areas – yet many of those with mental health difficulties find that support is limited and hard to access. Project Future was commissioned to address some of these inequalities and works to improve young people’s wellbeing. Its approach puts mental health professionals into local communities to co-produce a service with young people that can meet local needs.

The evaluation found that Project Future made young people feel safe, respected, accepted, given opportunities, empowered, supported and listened to; which in turn enabled them to see themselves in different ways and access new opportunities. As a result of their involvement in the project, particularly those with the longest involvement, they had a significant improvement in their mental health and wellbeing during their time in contact with the project, and many got help from the project with health, employment, training, welfare and justice.

One of the young men who was helped in Project Future is Jean-Marc. Jean-Marc had been in a gang, in prison, all before he was 22, but his life turned around when he came through the doors of Project Future in Haringey.

“This project keeps me out of a lot of trouble,” says Jean-Marc. “When I came here I could tell it was not a waste of time like it was in prison. They were willing to help and to find me work. I told them I wanted to work in a hotel, and they got me a job at the Royal Automobile Club. And I only got that job because of Project Future. I was there for six months and I was in a suit and it gave me real confidence.”

The report’s authors recommend that:

  • Local authorities, NHS commissioners, police and others should pool budgets to offer long-term funding to services like Project Future that support marginalised young people.
  • Mental health service providers and commissioners should develop services for young people using the principles of Project Future: at least one in every STP or ACS area.
  • Schools need to be ‘psychologically informed’, with staff who are trained in understanding and addressing trauma, stress and distress and ‘life lessons’ on the curriculum.
  • Prisons need a profound culture shift to prioritise wellbeing and rehabilitation in order to stop the cycle of offending.

Centre for Mental Health chief executive Sarah Hughes said: “Project Future has demonstrated that working alongside young people to support their wellbeing and opportunities can make a dramatic difference to their life chances and the communities around them.”

“We are recommending local authorities, voluntary and community organisations and the NHS come together in their local areas to work in partnership with and improve the lives of young the people they serve in their most disadvantaged areas and communities. Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships are ideally placed to deliver this across the country and should prioritise a group of people who for too long have been on the margins.”

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