Youth Work Week 2022 Supporting vulnerable families

FARE Scotland wish to tackle the effects of poverty and its symptoms. Their aim is to encourage people in the communities they serve to have a vision of a better life. One of the devastating impacts of poverty is poor mental health.  

Mental health is something we all need to talk about, learn about and support.  FARE Scotland are doing just that with trained members of staff based in Glasgow schools, supporting young people to learn more about mental health and the skills to support themselves and others.  Mental health affects everyone in different ways, whether it’s a young person suffering with anxiety or a parent with a mental health illness or crisis.   

Inequalities such as lack of housing, home environment, food poverty and financial poverty can all have a detrimental impact on our young people.  Poor mental health for parents and young people can create barriers to learning and have a huge bearing on daily life and well-being.   

Natalie Miller, Family Liaison Officer at Smithycroft Secondary School identified that there was a need for mental health support within the school and established a group named Minds Matter.  

The Minds Matter group has proven to be a very effective way in supporting young people with their mental health and wellbeing.  Initially pre-Covid, the Minds Matter group ran weekly, with approximately 10 young people attending. Post-Covid the group was extended with two sessions running each week after school to meet demand of the volume of young people wanting to attend.  Over the two days available to the young people there were approximately 28 young people who regularly attended each week. It was felt that by increasing the support, the school were able to meet the young people’s mental health and wellbeing needs.   

The sessions have been extremely helpful in supporting young people in numerous ways. The group itself is a safe space for young people to open up about their struggles and worries without fear of being judged.  Natalie meets the young people with a positivity and support.  Group numbers became slightly decreased after nine months because young people felt they had more control over their wellbeing and the skills they had learned in the Minds Matter group had helped them substantially.   

“Coming to group has made me feel better and I now understand myself better.” Female, 14.   

“I have been struggling with my mental health due to my sexuality and gender identity, the mental health group lets me talk about my feelings in ways I can’t talk to my parents.”  Male, 14. 

“I have been on the waiting list for CAMHS for two years, I don’t know what I would have done without the group. Natalie helped me a lot, especially before my CAMHS appointment.  I was very worried but we worked through coping strategies and ways that I could talk to them about my thoughts and feelings.”  Female, 15. 

Natalie, who started the group, decided to train and deliver sessions at SCQF Level 5 in Mental Health First Aid.  The training was open to all pupils, age appropriate, who were keen on learning more about mental health and becoming Ambassadors for the school.  These young people were trained on mental health issues and ways in which we can signpost and talk to young people in crisis.  15 young people completed their training in June.  

Alongside the training in Mental Health First Aid, nine Smithycroft parents and carers also attended family learning sessions and successfully completed the qualification as well.  FARE recognises the importance of improving the health and wellbeing of both young people and their families. We put a great emphasis on good mental health in the work we do, through informal conversations, training, on-to-one sessions and group work.  

During sessions we have discussed topics such as healthy diet, exercise, relationships, communication and sleep hygiene.  Our school staff not only deliver education and learning opportunities but facilitate groups to help with social isolation, food poverty, employment support and family work. All our work with young people has a strong youth work approach.  

“With continued pressure on the NHS many services available to our young people are simply not there at the moment. FARE has been fundamental in bridging and scaffolding the support that is so vital to our young people.  Natalie and her team are doing a sterling job in providing pupils with immediate and long-term support. This support extends to not only the needs of the pupils but their parents and carers, something that has been a lifeline to our most vulnerable families during unprecedented times. Without the outstanding work of the team at FARE our community and spirit would cease to exist. Thank you from the Pastoral Care team.” Miss Bilbao, Pastoral Care Teacher 


T @FARE_Scotland  






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