News 19 September

XenZone Wins £1m Award to Develop Peer Support Therapy

Digital mental health pioneer XenZone has received £1m in funding to develop its ground-breaking peer support work on its fast-growing Kooth online counselling and wellbeing platform. 

The award was made by the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) from SBRI Healthcare, an NHS England and NHS Improvement initiative, supported by the Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs). 

XenZone was selected for this award through a rigorous application process, where it demonstrated its capacity to develop innovative new ways to engage and support young people in therapeutic peer support. It follows an earlier £100k in funding from SBRI, which saw XenZone train and support young people to enhance their peer support skills through a specially-developed learning programme.

The award will look to reach and retain more young people in therapeutic peer support on Kooth. The project will begin with a scoping exercise to identify areas where peer engagement could offer vital support for children and young people. 

XenZone is working with the London School of Economics (LSE) to evaluate the innovation developed through this project to build an evidence base for digital peer support.

Ben Patient, Director of Innovation Programmes at the LGC Grant Management Group, which is responsible for administering SBRI Healthcare, stated: “Expansion of and faster access to community mental health services, particularly for children and young adults, is one of the NHS’s priorities, as set out in the NHS Long Term Plan. The SBRI Healthcare Programme is delighted to support XenZone in the development of a breakthrough solution which is set to improve the lives of young people through online counselling.” 

According to Aaron Sefi, XenZone’s Research and Evaluation Director, “This is an incredible endorsement for us. The funding means we will be able to offer more ways on Kooth to receive support, ensuring that harder-to-reach young people are offered help in a way that best suits them. Our aim is to help everyone find their way to better mental health and wellbeing; peer support is a crucial component of that vision.”

New channels for peer support will be developed and designed hand-in-hand with young people, who will help shape, build and test new ways of offering mental health and wellbeing support through peer engagement. 

The work dovetails with a major piece of research XenZone is engaged in to review and measure outcomes on Kooth.