An innovative new model of care supporting children and young people with mental illnesses will be coming to Birmingham, thanks to a £252,000 grant from NHS Charities Together and donations to Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity worth £139,000.

The project will fund Peer Support Workers, who will be aged between 16 and 24-years-old and from the same communities and backgrounds of the people they will support. Crucially they will all have their own lived experiences of mental illness, therefore, not only will they be able to help young people with their medical recovery, they will aid them with their personal recovery too.

The Peer Support Worker is a newly-formed role and is the initiative of Forward Thinking Birmingham, the city’s youth mental health partnership for 0 to 25-year-olds, which is a part of Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust. Forward Thinking Birmingham has seen a marked increase in referrals to its service since the start of the pandemic and so in order to tackle the city’s growing youth mental health challenge head on, a new fundraising campaign – Fight For All the Feels – was launched on World Mental Health Day in October last year.

Alex Borg, Director of Mental Health Services at Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We’re incredibly grateful to NHS Charities Together and the public for helping to fund our new Peer Support Worker programme. We are focused, more than ever, on providing long-term support through this new model, to deal with the lasting effects of COVID-19 on youth mental health.

“The initial funding will help us to start the programme, but our ambition is to increase capacity to help more young people across our city. The public can continue to join us in our fight for youth mental health by donating to our campaign.”

Thanks to donations to NHS Charities Together  and Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity, Forward Thinking Birmingham is now able to bring the paid Peer Support Workers to Birmingham. The chosen individuals will provide an accessible model of care post-pandemic and act as a direct point of contact for young people from referral, throughout treatment and during the discharge period. Once established, this new care model will be the first of its kind within Children’s and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

The Peer Support Workers will increase and improve capacity within Forward Thinking Birmingham, with the aim of reducing referrals and the number of children and young people presenting in crisis at Birmingham Children’s Hospital’s Emergency Department or requiring in-patient admission. They also aim to speed up discharges, lessen the likelihood of re-referrals within six months of discharge, and reduce the number and likelihood of missed appointments. In doing so, Forward Thinking Birmingham hopes to improve the economic, social and health prospects for all young people.

 Ellie Orton, Chief Executive of NHS Charities Together, said: “It’s great to see the incredible difference donations to NHS Charities Together are making in helping provide much-needed mental health support to young people who need it now more than ever, with the pandemic sadly having such a significant impact on young people’s mental health. Thank you to everyone who has donated and to Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust who have worked so hard to bring this programme to fruition.”

The public can join the fight for youth mental health by visiting where they can learn more about the campaign, register their fundraising, or make a donation. Follow @Bham_YouthMH on Instagram and Twitter for updates.