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The Next Generation Starts With Little Gems

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MOM HOLDING HAND
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I'm delighted to be blogging for the launch of the new Impact section of the Huffington Post UK - a new part of the site dedicated to charities and campaigns. It's fitting that this launch ties in with Children In Need - another great charity supporting young people.

We know from our work with families how important support and services can be for the most disadvantaged families struggling against all odds.

Young people particularly are at risk if their parents are struggling with mental health problems or other complex issues. Some 450,000 parents in the UK have mental health difficulties; and as only a quarter are in employment, their children will be particularly vulnerable to child poverty. As an anti-poverty charity and a key player in the End Child Poverty Coalition - this is something we care deeply about.

Children of parents with mental health issues are also at risk of developing mental health difficulties or behavioural problems with consequences for the NHS and their personal employability and own family life in later years.

That's why at Family Action we think it is important to work with the whole family at the earliest possible stage of their problems, ensuring that children are safe and able to fulfil their potential and families are strong. We think this is really important and want to see the Government's mental health strategy 'No Health Without Mental Health' focusing more on the impact of mental health on the whole family.

As well as supporting parents to safeguard children from the impacts of parental mental health it's also important to make sure young people's mental health is high up the agenda in its own right.

Changes to the NHS mean that the future is unclear for children's health. We're worried that the voices of children will be drowned out of the commissioning process if measures aren't put in place to champion children and give them a voice. Our Family Action Little Gems project, supported and funded by Children In Need, does just that.

Little Gems helps support young people in Gorleston, Great Yarmouth aged seven-14 years to improve their life chances and mental health and stay safe through a mentoring service.

Young people are mentored by local volunteers - the Big Society in action! - who also gain new skills and increase their employability. Little Gems helps young people increase their self esteem and confidence, helps with anger management issues, supports young people being bullied and helps them if they're worried about the move from primary to secondary school.

The great thing about the Project is that it also improves the opportunities for the volunteer mentors too - who gain new skills which improve their pathways to employment.

But don't just believe me - take a read of some of the comments the service has received from parents and children.

"I would just like to thank you for your increased and continuing involvement with my family... helped us come together as a family unit and enjoy spending quality time together...without this help my son would have become 'lost' in every sense of the word. He would not have wanted to attend school or behave appropriately...my words cannot express how much I appreciate all the effort." (Parent)

"I liked the mentoring and if I had a problem I would do it again." (young person aged 11yrs)

We know that young people worrying about things in school impacts on their learning and a good education is one of the key building blocks to tackling poverty and raising aspirations and social mobility.

Already because of welfare cuts and the economic crisis what happens at home is felt inside the school grounds. Children who are worrying where they might be sleeping because housing support has been cut will not be concentrating in the classroom. Young people who see their parents counting the coppers and at fear of losing their jobs will be in danger of losing hope in their futures.

That's why services like Little Gems, which give them an opportunity to talk about these problems and empower them to find their own solutions, are vital.

So, as we celebrate the new Impact section on Huffington Post we should celebrate the impact charities like Children In Need and Family Action are having on children and young people. We must also make sure that we campaign for change and improvements so that young people can get the best start in life and they have the opportunity to have a positive impact on all our futures.

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