CHILDREN and young people in Solihull can access mental health support provided by a new online anonymous counselling service.
But parents of children with mental illnesses are concerned online counselling is replacing existing support services that, they say, are already taking too long to respond to children’s needs.
Solihull council has commissioned XenZone’s ‘Kooth’ service, giving local 11-25 year olds access to online counselling and emotional well-being support with no waiting lists.
Counsellors are available from 12noon until 10pm on weekdays and from 6pm until 10pm on weekends and the scheme will run for an 18-month pilot.
Kooth claim they will work in partnership with a number of providers, including children and young people’s mental health services (Solar), adult mental health services, social care and voluntary sector providers.
Solar is provided by Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust in partnership with Barnardo’s and Autism West Midlands.
England’s chief inspector of hospitals has rated the services provided by the trust as ‘requires improvement’ following an inspection by the Care Quality Commission.
Cirian-Marie Beddoes from Solihull, parent of a child with SEN, told the Observer: “I don’t want my SEN child to have any more reason to live through social media or via a computer screen.
“On line counselling personally I think is a total cop out on behalf of Solihull council.
“Instead of funding this why haven’t they helped reduce the time lag to get support for our kids to prevent self harming and worsening mental health.
“Or make the process and system easier so we don’t all need to give up our careers and take degrees in SEN to understand how to get the right support for our kids.
“I think this is a total cop out and we need to get back to basics with mental health – people in place to support children and families – nothing replaces that.”
Coun Ken Meeson, chair of the Solihull Health and Wellbeing Board said:“We know there is growing concern nationally that more and more children need help with their mental and emotional health.
“Kooth will be a valuable addition that will complement existing services and I am delighted that it will provide an important and accessible resource to which Solihull’s young people will be able to turn to when they need support.”
As part of the commission, XenZone will run assemblies or workshops at local schools.
These could focus on specific problems pupils are struggling with or could focus on recurring issues, such as emotional resilience, bullying or exam stress.
Dr Angela Brady, a GP and Solihull CCG’s mental health lead, said: “We are delighted that young people in Solihull will now be able to access this invaluable service and get mental health support when they need it most, in a way which is convenient to them.”
Elaine Bousfield, chair and founder of XenZone, added: “Self-referral services like Kooth are easily accessible as well as helping to remove the stigma that some young people face in getting mental health support.
“We look forward to working in Solihull and making a positive impact to the lives of local children and young people.”
The Kooth counselling service can be accessed at https://kooth.com/