Left to Right: Stephen Brown (Wyre Forest Labour); Bryn Thomas (Headteacher Wolverley); Andrea Whitehouse (Founder of Reach Out)
Left to Right: Stephen Brown (Wyre Forest Labour); Bryn Thomas (Headteacher Wolverley); Andrea Whitehouse (Founder of Reach Out)

As a society, we like to think we take the wellbeing of our children very seriously, especially their mental health. However, we are increasingly seeing more young people, especially of school age, presenting with issues that require specialist support. One of the problems is the funding of these services, because neither Council’s or the NHS seem to have the money to do it.

The reasons for children being in need of such support are complex. It can be as a result of a family loss, difficult home circumstances, anxiety, trauma, bullying, emotional, physical or sexual abuse. Dealing with these things can be an overwhelming feeling for a child, it can cause all kinds of behavioural problems or emotional responses, and they need help.

Wyre Forest is not exempt from seeing our children experience these issues. We are seeing more and more young people being affected. Austerity has undoubtedly had an impact on family life with increasing financial and emotional pressures. The cuts to public services like councils, NHS, and schools, means less resources are now available to deal with the fallout.

Schools have a duty to look after the emotional well-being of their pupils. What they don’t have are the resources. Families can find themselves in an ever decreasing circle of referrals that get them nowhere. Passed from pillar to post be it at School, NHS, GP, or social services. Meanwhile, the child doesn’t get the help they need.

Luckily, here in Wyre Forest, we have a local charity, called ‘Reach Out’ totally run by trained experienced volunteers, and based at Wolverley CE Secondary School, that has risen to the challenge and has been offering a professional service to our local children for 3 years now. The Charity is run by Andrea Whitehouse. The charity and Andrea’s work is supported by the Headteacher at Wolverley CE Secondary School, Bryn Thomas.

In the time they’ve been operating out of the Lodge on the school site, they’ve helped over 70 children, some from across Wyre Forest, not just Wolverley. That gives you an idea of the scale of the problem we face. It has become an integral part of Wolverley CE Secondary School’s life. It is invaluable.

Bryn Thomas, Headteacher said “Reach Out has had a huge positive impact on so many individuals in recent years and continues to be an essential service for some of our students. The rapidly increasing need for early help services for our young people coincides with unprecedented cuts to services for them. It’s amazing that dedicated volunteers have been central to providing such a wonderful service. We can’t ‘plug the gap’ but working together we can at least provide some support for the young people most in need. Financial support is essential now if the service is to be sustained, it would be devastating if we can’t,”

Of course, having an organisation that helps the children deal with their difficulties is great, but unfortunately, as Bryn highlights, the lack of resources available to them means that without more money, they cannot meet the growing demand. What’s more, with the pressure being put on volunteers, they too can get stressed out worrying how the organisation can cope and survive. Simply put, they are now at the point where they need money and other donations to help.

Andrea Whitehouse, founder of Reach Out said “In 2011 I started out as a volunteer in another charity, and after experiencing the overwhelming demand for supporting children within the Wyre Forest, I founded Reach Out in October 2014.  My team of therapists, counsellors and experienced support volunteers have been based at Wolverley since January 2016. The children who have been referred to us have shown improvement in their wellbeing and mental health.  The issues we have covered are depression, anxiety/panic attack, anger, self harm, bereavement, low self esteem/confidence and children in social care.  Unfortunately, each year there are more and more children facing these issues.  Children’s mental health needs to be a priority and our hope is to provide help at the earliest opportunity.  Early intervention is vital when children start to show signs of emotional distress.  All children deserve to be supported and should no longer suffer in silence or wait until they are in crisis. Our aim as a charity is to reach as many children as possible.  Our wonderful volunteers who support the children are the heart of Reach Out. These extraordinary people devote their time to help these children who, without this support, would have nothing.”

Stephen Brown, of Wyre Forest Labour said “Wyre Forest Labour is supportive of the work of Reach Out, it’s vital. We have already called upon the Government to invest in mental health services in the District in a recent letter to both the MP and Prime Minister Theresa May. We want to do what we can to help them raise awareness, funds, and donations. I met with Andrea last week to hear of the work she’s doing with these children, and it’s amazing, she’s amazing, the dedication and commitment she and her team of volunteers show is immense. Andrea deserves real credit for what she’s achieved these past three years. I have been to the school myself to assess how valuable the work they do is to everyone. I’ve spoken to the Headteacher, Bryn Thomas, and his support is fundamental for this charity. The problem is, someone now needs to step up to the plate in authority, and recognise this vital service needs financial support. Without that support, children in need of help are going to get left behind. Society then pays the price. It’s a price society cannot afford to pay. I actually discussed funding routes with Andrea and suggested a few things based on my experience of running a charity in Birmingham, but times are hard. I’ve spoken to local senior Labour Party members, councillors, and leading Labour Councillors at County Hall. We are going to try and get this issue put on the agenda. This is not just about Wolverley, and Wyre Forest, this is a whole County matter. There’s hundreds, if not thousands of kids out there, in need of help. The County needs to provide funding for this vital work. This is about investing in our future.”

In the meantime, Reach Out welcomes donations from anyone able to help. The Charity needs money of course to do its work, and to be able to employ a part-time fundraiser/administrator and organiser. Their premises, provided by the School, needs re-purposing to make it better suited to the children’s needs. The garden too is in need of renovation. So, if there are any Companies out there who can help to do some of these things, Andrea would love to hear from you. The same goes for financial donations.

For Press Enquiries or further information contact:

Stephen Brown, Wyre Forest Labour Party: press@wyreforestlabour.co.uk Phone: 07966 518726

Andrea Whitehouse, Reach Out: reach-out@mail.com Phone: 07393 506760

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