Free, anonymous and professional online counselling offered to 11-26 year olds in Barnet
Barnet Council and Barnet Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) have commissioned XenZone, pioneer of online counselling services, to give children and young people access to professional mental health counsellors through its online Kooth service. The move comes after the Council and CCG’s extensive consultation with Barnet’s young people, who have expressed a desire for online support.
The commission is a key part of Barnet’s drive to redesign services to improve accessibility, promote resilience and better support young people’s emotional wellbeing and mental health. The online service, which will be integrated with existing mental health services in Barnet, is an effective early help for emerging mental health problems and can reduce the stigma sometimes associated with seeking help for mental ill-health.
It is expected to help reduce demand for specialist children’s services, particularly Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and social care.
Incorporating Kooth in the new flexible support model will give children and young people – from age 11 until their 26th birthday – access to professional help when they need it; Kooth provides support from qualified counsellors seven days per week, until 10pm.
Young people register anonymously on the site, which gives them access to drop-in or booked online chats with British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP) certified counsellors, psychotherapists and emotional wellbeing practitioners. They can log in to Kooth through any connected device.
Kooth offers moderated peer to peer support, as well as giving young people access to downloadable self-help resources, forums and discussion groups. They can also read and contribute to the Kooth online magazine.
Dr Charlotte Benjamin, Barnet CCG’s clinical lead for Mental Health, said, “We have listened to Barnet’s young people and are excited to be able to offer this innovative online service. Our aim is to make our mental health support services as accessible to children and young people as possible. Whether they ask for digital or face-to-face counselling or whether they need specialist support, we will ensure they get the right help at the right time.”
As part of this effort, Kooth provider XenZone will engage with secondary schools, further education colleges and alternative secondary provision in Barnet to raise awareness of the service. It will also help address any specific mental health issues, such as exam stress, bullying or resilience, while promoting a whole schools approach.
Natalia Clifford, Consultant in Public Health at Barnet Council, explains, “Offering free online counselling is part of our exciting Resilient Schools Programme aimed at supporting teachers, families and pupils to identify and manage their mental health and emotional wellbeing.”
According to Elaine Bousfield, XenZone’s founder and chair, “Online counselling services like Kooth can transform waiting times for children and young people who need support for mental health problems. This in turn can reduce demand on specialist children’s services, particularly CAMHS and social care. We are proud to be part of Barnet’s new care model and welcome this innovative perspective on commissioning.”
Kooth will work alongside existing local services: the CAMHS provider, schools, GPs, voluntary services, Local Authority Children’s Services, such as early help, social care and the school nursing service, as well as the Safeguarding Children Board in Barnet, adult services and voluntary organisations.