Turning to non-clinical solutions to help prevent kids reaching crisis point

A growing number of organisations are using social prescribing to reduce waiting lists and costs as pressure mounts on Children and Young People's Mental Health Services.

Almost one million children are waiting for mental health treatment and these non-clinical initiatives are being used to support their emotional wellbeing.

It's an approach being used by the charity StreetGames, which runs sport-based sessions across the country, including in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, where a group of up to 15 children gather every Thursday in a leisure centre.

The "child-centred" approach means each session varies, depending on how the group is feeling.

Among those attending the sessions is Robyn, who started coming as a five-year-old experiencing anxiety at home.

"She started with massive anxieties and potential ADHD, for just being overwhelmed," said her mother, Rachel.

"But now she knows how to process a feeling.

"She's a lot more calm, a lot more approachable with other people as well."

Robyn also goes to arts and crafts in another form of social prescribing that has helped her.

"It was a case of I used to sit at the side and watch like a hawk for fear if something was going to go wrong, now I know full well, she's going to be fine."

The session is delivered at a local level by YourTrust, a charity working across Rochdale, as part of StreetGames's Play Their Way campaign highlighting the increasingly significant role of coaches delivering socially prescribed physical activity.

Sally Carr, northwest director for StreetGames UK, said: "Youth social prescribing works because of a mix of partners involved in it.

"Although the sport is the activity, it's thanks to the relationships built within a friendly and supportive atmosphere, with trusted adults, that help young people thrive.

"Although there is a crisis, we're not ignoring that and we're not minimising that. It's about thinking in different ways."

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Ms Carr was referring to a report by children's commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza earlier this month.

The report cites figures from NHS England showing that nearly one million children and young people were referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services - equal to 8% of the 11.9 million children in England.

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Some 270,300 of them are still waiting for mental health support after being referred to the services.

Barnardo's is another charity running its own social prescribing programmes.

It is calling for a national social prescribing strategy drawing on a number of agencies to support children and young people. These could include working more closely with schools and community mental health support hubs.

Becky Rice, Barnardo's policy manager, said that approach "should be part of a wider pathway of support".

"More children and young people are reaching crisis point on longer waiting lists, while a lack of consistent service provision is leading to a funnel towards the acute services," she said.

"We need a really consistent pathway on what that young person needs, depending on where they are on that pathway and their journey, in a consistent approach."