£1.4 million of National Lottery funding to empower young people to shape mental health services

Youth Access, a charity that advocates for high-quality mental health services for young people, has been awarded nearly £1.4 million in National Lottery funding to put the voices of young people at the centre of service design.

The grant from The National Lottery Community Fund – the UK’s largest funder of community activity – will bring young people, mental health professionals and policymakers together to co-design mental health and wellbeing services that are more responsive to the needs of young people.

The funding will enable Youth Access, in partnership with nine youth and mental health organisations from across the UK, to empower young people to use their lived experience of mental health services to lead the way in transforming how these services are accessed by their peers.

As part of the programme, young people will create ‘charters’, articulating how community mental health and wellbeing services can be transformed, ensuring they are both young person-centred and community-based. Over 11,000 young people and around 1,100 mental health professionals from across the UK will be engaged and reached as part of the project. 

James Kenrick, Chief Executive at Youth Access, said: “This funding will enable young people to lead the design of more responsive community-based mental health services, working in collaboration with providers, commissioners and policy makers. We are excited to be working with such esteemed partners to share and spread good practice across the UK, which we expect to unleash the untapped potential of evidence-based voluntary sector models, such as the Youth Access YIACS model.

“We are exceptionally grateful to The National Lottery Community Fund for recognising the importance of reshaping mental health provision so that all young people can access the help they need and when they need it.”

John Knights, Senior Head of UK Portfolio at The National Lottery Community Fund, said: “We’re delighted that National Lottery funding is supporting this vital project, which aims to place the lived experience and voices of young people at the centre of mental health service design. As a result, mental health services across the UK will be more responsive to the needs of young people, helping communities thrive – and it’s all thanks to National Lottery players.”

Young people currently encounter overwhelming barriers when accessing mental health services and a ‘cliff edge’ between children and adult mental health services. As a result, young people are the least likely age group to receive the help they need.

The Youth Access project will address this by supporting young people to clearly outline what they need from their services and work with decision makers to ensure that local systems are meeting the needs of this underserved aged group. 

At the outset of the project, young people will set the agenda for later collaboration with professionals by articulating what they believe mental health and wellbeing services should look like. The project will then empower young people to take their vision for services to decision makers so that they can lead change collectively.

The project will also ensure that the mental health system in the UK has greater accountability for delivering what matters to young people. Youth Access services and other stakeholders will come together from across the UK to establish common cause and facilitate the sharing and adoption of promising approaches.  

The funding will build on Youth Access’ ongoing work to improve young people’s access to mental health services, including the promotion of the YIACS model which takes a young person-centred, rights-based approach to mental health support. 

The Youth Access project will be delivered over five years and will engage young people in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Members of the project partnership, which is led by Youth Access, are: Scottish Youth Parliament, SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health), Promo Cymru, Hafal, National Children’s Bureau, Royal College of Psychiatrists and NHS Clinical Commissioners Mental Health Network. The evaluation will be undertaken by The Centre for Youth Impact and the Health Inequalities Research Network. 

The National Lottery Community Fund distributes money raised by National Lottery players for good causes. Last year it awarded over half a billion pounds (£511.1 million) of life-changing funding to communities across the UK and supported over 12,000 projects to turn their great ideas into reality.