Mayor’s £1.4m boost for mental health training to help young Londoners

Around 8,000 of London’s frontline professionals working with young people are being offered training in mental health support and safeguarding.

The scheme aims to help young Londoners, particularly those affected by gang-related crime, thanks to £1.4m from the Mayor’s Office for Policing And Crime (MOPAC).

The Mental Health and Safeguarding training (MAST) will give frontline professionals including teachers, police officers, council workers and health and social care workers unprecedented specialised training in understanding gang culture, identifying young people who are gang affiliated, providing them with support services, and knowing the right steps to take when they encounter a young person that may be an easy target for gang recruitment.

Part of the Mayor’s commitment to reducing gang-related crime and preventing young people from becoming involved in gang activity, MAST will be delivered by mental health practitioners, experts in safeguarding and Met Police professionals who deal with gang-related crime.

The programme builds on the comprehensive measures MOPAC has already taken to fight gang-related crime in London. This includes setting up the Trident Gang Crime Command which, since February 2012, has made almost 1,300 arrests, seized 87 firearms and over £900,000 in cash, and funding 25 core gangs projects at a value of over £3m.

MOPAC has also helped to fund a range of e-resources for professionals who complete the MAST programme including a discussion forum, advice from safeguarding experts, as well as real life case studies, academic papers, and useful tips. From next month, there will be a specialist safeguarding referral guide for every borough which has been developed with the help of Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hubs (MASH) across London. The e-hub can be viewed here http://benjamintoddclients.co.uk/mastdev1/

MOPAC is working closely with the Met and a range of partners on this project which has been partly funded with £839,100 through a successful Home Office Innovation Fund bid.

The programme consists of two days of training and will run until March 2016. It is available to anyone within the London Metropolitan area who has a role in dealing with young people.

For more information and to register for the free training, visit www.masttraining.co.uk

Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, Stephen Greenhalgh said: “This programme is an integral part of the Mayor’s commitment to protect vulnerable young Londoners from having their lives damaged and derailed by gang crime. With specialised training for teachers, police officers, healthcare and social workers, we can empower frontline staff to identify and act on the signs of emotional trauma or mental health issues in the young people they come into contact with. Whether they are already involved in gangs or are at risk of victimisation by gangs, we can ensure young people receive the support they need. I strongly encourage everyone who works with London’s youngsters to take full advantage of this important opportunity.”

Strategic Director at Catch22, Frances Flaxington said: “This training should have a real impact on how we understand and address gang and youth violence. This flexible and responsive new approach has the potential to address complex challenges before they escalate. The reality is that these are exceptionally vulnerable children and young people. They need specialist support services including strong relationships with people they trust. The MAST training will go a long way towards creating the multi-skilled frontline workforce we need to address gang involvement in our communities.”

Chair of the Ealing Custody Panel, Jeannine Andre said: “The training was very interactive and proactive. It opened my eyes to the meaning of mental health and the importance of early diagnosis, especially in the young.  Although there is a high number of young people who go through police custody, the percentage that we, as custody visitors, meet and talk to is small. The big benefit I feel overall in my role is that ninety per cent of detainees in custody are believed to have mental health issues and this training has helped me to understand mental health and to be more sensitive to the needs of detainees. It has also given me the knowledge to ask correct questions of the police.”

Assistant Psychologist at HMYOI Feltham, Mental Health Team, Kumar Birch said: “The MAST training was well structured and engaging. Although many attendees had good working knowledge of mental health, it was extremely helpful to focus on the specific impact of gang dynamics. The discussions were useful in getting everyone to think about the number of factors that can increase young people’s vulnerability to gang involvement. Overall the training raised awareness, inspired reflection on the ways to improve professional practice and provided a great opportunity to connect with others working within the young people network.”

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