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Boingboing and HeadStart in Blackpool - October-December 2016

by Boingboing

Boingboing Blackpool is a really exciting new development that is now well underway. It has been made possible by funding from the Big Lottery for a programme called HeadStart. This all started a couple of years ago when the Big Lottery wanted to do something to:

"…equip young people to cope better with difficult circumstances, preventing them from experiencing common mental health problems before they become serious issues. We also want to give young people the knowledge and skills to cope with periods of depression and anxiety." - Big Lottery Fund 

They gave 12 local authorities some money to pilot different approaches to doing this with the main focus being on putting young people at the centre of a:

"locally developed, cross-disciplinary, multi-layered and integrated prevention strategy."

They were really keen that areas thought about the sustainability of whatever they came up with and that they worked from, and contributed to the development of a robust evidence base around ‘what works’ – all the kind of stuff that Boingboing gets excited about.

At that stage (phase 2) Boingboing provided lots of input and an advisor that worked with four of the areas alongside advisors from other organisations so we got a really good idea of what the areas were doing – lots of them used the Resilience Framework in their plans and activities. 

Early in 2016 the areas had to put together a bid for more funding. This involved lots of thinking as shown by this blog produced by the senior educational psychologist in Blackpool. Only 6 areas were successful and they now have funding for 5 years to really embed and develop their plans on the back of what they learnt in phase 2. 

Blackpool is one of these areas (others are Kent, Cornwall, Cumbria, Newham and Hull). Right from the start Blackpool has worked co-productively with their young people and their aim for phase 3 shows this clearly when it says: 

"A resilient Blackpool – where young people see the difference, feel the difference and are the difference."

They also recognise that, in comparison to many other areas, they have a significantly bigger challenge ahead of them. As it says in the introduction to their bid: 

"It is undeniably true that our young people need this investment more than most. If you pick any statistic which measure a problem, the chances are that Blackpool will be at the wrong end of the league table."

As required by Big Lottery their plan works at different levels with some things offered to all children aged between 10 and 16 years and some for specific groups. The young people who will have some of the more targeted work are those in care, those who self harm and those making the transition to secondary school - from Year 6 to 7. These groups in particular were chosen by the town on the basis of what they knew – both through data and what the young people told them.

One of the most important things the town is doing is investing in staff training – not just in resilience, but also in understanding and challenging systems to make them more coherent for young people and their families.

So where does Boingboing Blackpool come in? 

Its main role is to provide a community development approach to supporting the HeadStart investment and it’s going to do this through providing training on Resilience, Resilient Therapy and the Academic Resilience Approach, followed by supervision and the development of a Community of Practice across the workforce. This will make sure that everyone can speak the same language – and that means everybody – from directors and commissioners to young people and their families. This will make multi-disciplinary work much easier. 

Boingboing are also supporting a group of resilience coaches who will be doing lots of individual work across the programme. They will receive training and will be a new and useful resource for the town. The coaches and the wider workforce are able to access sessions on practitioner resilience as we know how important it is to keep healthy and resilient as a worker if we really want to do the best for, with and on behalf of young people. 

Alongside this Boingboing Blackpool, as an organisation, will be offering volunteering, training and apprenticeship opportunities for local people – not just young ones – but their parents/carers as well. 

It’s an exciting and demanding challenge but there is a real drive to have a go at doing things differently and make things work. We’ve already got started so look out for future blog updates. 

October to December 2016 - Boingboing and HeadStart in Blackpool

HeadStart and Boingboing have got off to a flying start, implementing the new programme with vigour. The aim of this first quarter has been to lay the foundations for a sustainable programme to support mental health across Blackpool. This is a very exciting phase and really important to get right. People working in services across the town will become experts in Resilient Therapy and the Academic Resilience Approach. They need to consider the systems and processes which structure their organisation or department, the whole interconnected system across Blackpool and their role within it. They also need to understand the crucial role of co-production in creating a sustainable programme, and how to implement co-production. This means that everyone works together, on an equal footing, bringing their expertise and experience to the design of programmes, including those who have lived with mental health challenges, professionals, practitioners and academics. Genuine co-production can be challenging to implement effectively, but it is vital to ensure the programmes meet the needs of those living in Blackpool and are going to last into the future, so together we will put it at the heart of everything we do.

In the initial stages Boingboing’s work has centred on capacity-building with HeadStart staff and by establishing systems and procedures for the effective delivery of a resilience-based approach across the town. In this way, many more people will be able to deliver their services in a way that supports resilience. Everyone will also be speaking the same language and have shared aims.

Professor Angie Hart has visited Blackpool several times along with other Boingboing staff to support HeadStart, and has also provided significant support using Skype. Boingboing’s Training coordinator, Gabrielle Rowles, alongside Becky Heaver, immediately surrounded herself with technology, telephones, software (and highlighter pens) to set up a thorough training programme, free to those who live or work in Blackpool. There has been a lot to do, including the administration of these events, the provision of materials and refreshments, as well as creatively designing information leaflets and ensuring that young people are thoroughly included as co-trainers, but it has all paid off, with many events already having near capacity attendance for the months leading to March.

There are 7 introduction workshops (Bouncing Forward!), designed specifically for Blackpool, to introduce people to the principles of resilience and the opportunities that HeadStart will be offering across the town. Two of the workshops were delivered in December by Angie Hart and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , who is the HeadStart lead in Blackpool, as well as Boingboing’s young trainers Lisa and Naz. Around 25 people attended each workshop, coming from the police, local colleges and hospitals as well as foster carers and others with an interest in resilience. They didn't anticipate how much they were going to giggle, thanks to Angie and others’ engaging style of delivery. 

"I found it amazing"

"The talk, game, presentation were informative and easy to understand."

"I shall take this forward by raising awareness of the collaborative approach of HeadStart with students on Foundation Degree in Family Support and Wellbeing at Blackpool and Fylde College."

The short workshop acts as a gateway to the more in-depth workshops available in Blackpool. The rest of the training programme includes Introduction to Resilient Therapy, Understanding the Academic Resilience Approach, and Practitioner Resilience. We are running 8 of these workshops between January and April. They have been widely advertised across the town using Blackpool Council's brilliant Comms department, as well as the Boingboing website. The venue for training is Blackpool Central library to draw more people into this community space and the refreshments are provided by Camerados, a charity set up to combat isolation, so that we are promoting resilience in the way we deliver the workshops as well as our activities during the workshops.

In order to establish the ethos and fundamentals of Resilient Therapy, a 3 day co-learning and planning event in December was led by Boingboing's Claire Stubbs, Mary Hinton and Lisa Buttery with support from Mikey and Ruth from Arts Connect. 45 practitioners from a wide range of services and partnerships attended and actively collaborated in various learning activities over two days, finishing with a planning day facilitated by Angie Hart and Pauline Wigglesworth, which explored how to develop and embed the resilience approach across the town. The training centred on resilience principles, as well as the Academic Resilience Approach, and practical applications of Resilient Therapy. Cat Johnson from Lindcroft Middle School in Bedfordshire gave a detailed account of a range of interventions which her school had implemented and embedded into school practice and the positive outcomes which have ensued. All of the training has been co-delivered by young people from a context of adversity. There was also an opportunity to see and learn about co-produced resilience products, which young people at Blackpool, Brighton and other HeadStart areas, have designed, so that the tools of resilience can be accessible and engaging to learn about.

Sun and Clouds game

Feedback from this planning day was really positive. Participants valued the ‘evidence-based approach’ and also the chance to network with other professionals. Other comments praised the ‘creative child-led approaches’ and ‘skills to make positive change and a socio-political level.’ The Resilience Framework was seen as a practical tool which could be discussed and applied in different contexts. Participants were also very positive about Cat’s input offering specific examples of how the Academic Resilience Approach supported students in her school. To improve next time we want to ensure that there are more opportunities to interact with the materials because those were the most popular activities.

In addition to the training programme, Boingboing has worked intensively to select and recruit an enthusiastic and talented project leader, with an inequalities imagination, to coordinate Boingboing Blackpool. Laura Brennan stood out as an exceptional candidate having lived in Blackpool for most of her life and worked with some of the most disadvantaged communities in both third and public sector organisations. Her role began in January 2017. Resilience coaches have also been recruited by HeadStart and will be trained in Resilient Therapy and the Academic Resilience Approach by Claire, Mary and Simon Duncan. Resilience coaches are integral to HeadStart's vision and have a remit to work with families, providing support, guidance and activities. They offer daily support to young people, parents and carers and targeted support for young people who self-harm whilst in the process gathering evidence on what works and prevents young people from getting into crisis. They will be trained to use Video Interactive Guidance to support and coach positive family relationships and interactions. They will also deliver an Enhanced Transition into secondary school by offering support based on Resilient Therapy to young people who have scored low or medium on their student resilience scale.

Volunteering, traineeships and apprenticeships will be provided to offer a pathway to employment for young people, parents and carers, and Boingboing is working with staff in Blackpool to identify those who might wish to get involved. Anne Rathbone has been working closely with Nathan Parker, the participation officer for Blackpool, to develop resilience training for young people and parents. Anne has supported Nathan and Rachel Slater (Blackpool’s HeadStart Partnership Officer) in person and in correspondence, to help develop the capacity of young people and parents in Blackpool to co-deliver future training. The Young People’s Executive group and others will attend training in January and there is also a free parents’ course, open to all and advertised across schools and children’s centres.

Boingboing has also begun the crucial partnership work with schools which will ensure that all children benefit from the support and positive outcomes offered by Resilient Therapy. Mary Hinton has visited the amazing Aspire Academy and learned about the fantastic work they are already doing to support their students. Schools nationally are under a lot of pressure to deliver a huge variety of interventions over and above academic education and Mary wants to ensure that schools embrace the Academic Resilience Approach because it will enhance what they do already, rather than being something extra to do. She has also co-instigated a series of Communities of Practice which she will be involved in running from January onwards. These will gather staff from across schools and education into groups where they can share expertise and ideas based on resilience principles.

Everyone at Boingboing is very excited about the next few months when work takes off, giving Blackpool an opportunity to undertake real change, re-shaping the system and services around evidence-based initiatives, which support real change carried out with people, not for them. This means embedding HeadStart into the culture of the partnership and organisations so that it becomes the way in which people all work, both as individual organisations and together as a partnership. We are delighted to contribute to that process.