Agenda item

Michelle Cooper Ad Astra - Listening Support Service in Carlton & Shafton Outwood Academy Project Update


Members welcomed Michelle Cooper and Mark Smales to the meeting to give an update on the work they are doing in Outwood Carlton and Shafton academies. They are carrying out group work in both academies which concentrates on active listening which promotes mindful thinking and reduces anxiety and depression. Active Listening creates a positive environment so that barriers can be broken and young people can trust the workers. It aids is building resilience to help manage future situations.


Practitioners have the skills to understand a young person’s body language and promotes an active awareness of what the young person is going through. They take in, digest, withhold judgement and reflect back to the young person, so they understand that what they are sharing is being acknowledged. This additionally helps them to know that other young people are experiencing similar struggles.


Young people have the support for 6/7 weeks and 126 of them gave mainly positive feedback. They enjoyed the sessions and trusted the practitioners which makes them feel better about school and home.


Three sessions are run each week with people who are waiting for other services such as CAHMS. A large proportion of these young people cry themselves to sleep and self-harm. Furthermore, since the pandemic the increase in eating disorders has been significant. There are groups of boys who are self-harming who have suicidal thoughts and many are acting on this.


The young people they work with are fantastic but they are falling behind due to things outside of their control including substance misuse, domestic violence and unofficial care situations.


In Outwood Carlton the service has been delivering 1 to 1 work and this has been successful in supporting the young people who do not feel able to share in a group setting. Additionally, the service regularly offer telephone support to young people reaching out for help.


The service has compiled a number of case studies which include a young person who was struggling with guilt due to their parents’ breakdown, being fat shamed, struggling with their emotions, sexual accusations and sibling and social care relationship breakdown. They initially went into a group setting but changed to the 1 to 1 work. The service supported them with positive affirmations, relaxation and anger management techniques and confidence building. They are now attending the New Lodge Youth Club which has helped them to socialise with other young people. Furthermore, the service assisted with building a positive relationship with mum who provided feedback on how proud she was of her daughter and thanked the service.


Additional concerns from the service were raised with Members including young people not eating in school due to lunch money debt, these are families on low incomes not entitled to free school meals. The service take snacks into the schools for young people to get them through the day. They cannot always get a drink due to dirty water bottles. The young people don’t complain, this information comes up in conversation.


Cllr Makinson gave thanks to the service for the work they do but acknowledged that the case studies do not come as a surprise. The statistics indicate that it is not always a positive outcome once people reach adulthood. The early work is needed to prevent further harm down the line. Furthermore, Barnsley do sometimes come out as the worst area and this is something that requires consideration.


Michelle Cooper highlighted that work was carried out earlier this year to clarify how many young people are in statutory services, the figure was £41,000 which does not include the young people receiving support from VCSE services.


Cllr Webster requested information on the involvement of parents due to the issue being one close to him and Michelle Cooper acknowledged that there is not a lot of support for parents. A young person who took their life last year has a parent who has started her own group. However, a lot of the time young people do not want their parents to know about what is going on.


Schools and services do have safeguarding protocols to follow and Members raised concerns that they would want to know what was happening if it was their child and that when these services are commissioned, we need to ensure they are following these rules and regulations.


Cllr Lamb requested that when commissioning services Members need to go to the schools for information as there is a concern that safeguarding issues are not being passed on. There is not a choice available in these circumstances and parents have a right to know. There needs to be a due process and the legal position requires adhering to. Additionally, sweeping judgements cannot be formed from small sample surveys.


Christie clarified the services safeguarding protocols but confirmed that she would seek further clarification with the service.


In the ensuing discussions reference was made to:


The fact that there is still work to be done and the issues raised do fit in with the bigger picture in Barnsley. However, it is important to not make sweeping generalisations about the young people in Barnsley.


Many parents are not supported and do not have the correct guidance when seeking to protect their children from self-harm such as looking for sharp objects and medication. It was stated that the statistics available provide a worrying picture.



RESOLVED that Michelle Cooper will forward specific data to share with Members and that Michelle and Mark be thanked for attending the meeting, for their presentation and for answering Members questions.