Sep 26, 2019

On Thursday 26th September, practitioners that are delivering services across the Hastings Opportunity Area mental health strand , came together to share practice and build further networks across the range of projects that are being funded. 

Since 2018, the HOA has funded and run a number of projects focusing on improving mental health and wellbeing for children, young people and families, with project leads from all of these programmes speaking at the event. 

i-Rock 14 – 25 Drop In Service

Viki Ashby from i-Rock

Viki Ashby from the award winning drop in service  i-Rock spoke about the opportunity they’ve had to reach significantly more young people since HOA funding has extended their opening hours last year.  


Mark Woodgate of 9 – 14 Key Worker Support Service

Mark Woodgate runs the ‘9 – 14 Key Worker Support Service’, which was set up by the HOA in 2018 to offer a range of support services in schools for this previously underserved age range. Over the last 12 months, hundreds of children and young people across Hastings & St Leonards have benefited from the additional support that the service can now deliver. 


Mark also spoke about ‘Open for Parents’, a project which offers a wide range of free parenting support services across the town. HOA funding has extended this service, including additional staff and a website which offers online interventions for parents directly. 


Gabrielle Rowles from Boing Boing

The HOA are working with an organisation called Boingboing CIC, who are offering schools free support to improve and develop their whole school approach to mental health and emotional wellbeing. Gabrielle Rowles from Boingboing CIC, spoke about the consultancy work they’ve been doing with schools, as well as upcoming training days for all primary school staff. “We hope these will leave a lasting legacy of up-skilled staff with confidence to promote the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people attending their school’.


Operation Encompass is an initiative  that directly connects the police with schools to secure better outcomes for children who are subject  or witness to police attended incidents of domestic abuse. The service ensures that communication between the police and the designated Safeguarding lead in schools is immediate .This enables discreet recognition of the child’s situation , enabling school staff to provide appropriate care for the pupil’s needs at schools. Patrick Walsh from SWIFT, who runs the project in Hastings, was encouraged that 100% of schools in the HOA catchment area have taken up the programme.


Joe Dove, also from SWIFT, spoke about the complexities of the task faced around sexualised behaviour in the digital age. Minors and young people have easier access than ever to pornography, and sexual materials are frequently (illegally) shared online by pupils via social media. Joe’s project educates young people, parents and school staff, but also provides information on how staff can deal with the variety of complex issues that can occur in this area. 


Cathrine Connelly runs the kNOknives project, which works collaboratively with young people to promote positive messaging encouraging young people not to engage with knives – in the last year their workshops reached 7,500 people in one year. 

“We were delighted that so many of our highly skilled and experienced practitioners were able to attend the event today, to share their expertise and to review how the programme is being delivered. There is a huge enthusiasm amongst all those involved in the project, to ensure that we are maximising the additional funding and ensuring that children and young people can access joined up support when they need it. At the event, we set out the wide range of activities that the HOA is funding. This will enable practitioners to make wider links across the programme – and ensure that some of most vulnerable children and young people are able to access the exciting range of activities and support that are on offer.”  

Helen Kay, HOA Programme Director

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