A new service to help children and young people struggling with their emotional health has been launched in North and West Cumbria.

The LINK service, a joint initiative between Barnardo’s and several local Primary Care Networks, is available to those aged between 5 and 19 years of age, offering social prescribing - a non-medical solution that provides a holistic approach to health and wellbeing and managing some of the issues young people face today.

Children and young people who may be struggling with issues such as anxiety, low mood, loneliness or stress from relationship difficulties with family and friends, can be referred into the LINK service by GPs and health professionals, schools and other supporting organisations.

LINK workers from Barnardo’s meet with each young person and work with them and their support network over a period of time, personalising the approach to the needs of each individual.

The specialist LINK workers provide practical and emotional support, helping to build confidence and identify strengths, worries and things within young people’s lives that they are struggling with. They provide them with strategies and tools to deal with these issues and work towards achieving goals, as well as connecting young people to wellbeing-boosting services within their local communities and other additional support as required.

The service has been co-designed with local children of primary and secondary school ages, who were involved with recruitment, branding and advising on service aims and delivery.

Steve Oversby, Regional Director for Barnardo’s North said: “The need for a local social prescribing service was identified by GPs and health professionals in the area, who worried they were only seeing children when they had got to crisis point and recognised a requirement for the availability of lower level interventions to support wellbeing at a much earlier stage.

“The LINK service is here to help children and young people who may be struggling with their emotional health and wellbeing, to support them and help them to gain skills and knowledge to lead happy and fulfilled lives.

“We value community services such as youth clubs and local activities, and encourage young people to become involved with these, as well as working with communities to ensure that meaningful activities continue to run and grow within the local area.

“Now more than ever during the Covid-19 pandemic, it is essential that services such as LINK are available to support young people and their wellbeing. We would encourage anyone who thinks they could benefit from this service to speak with a health professional or their school and get in touch with us.”

Dr Richard Massey, Clinical Director of the Keswick and Solway Primary Care Network, said: “We’re excited to be able to offer this new social prescribing service to children and young people in our communities – particularly during this difficult time. Through this collaboration with Barnardo’s we hope to develop stronger links with our schools and are very grateful to the staff and pupils from Solway and Beacon Hill Community Schools for their help in developing the service.

“This is an opportunity to support children and young people to feel empowered and to engage with support services and activities that will improve their health and wellbeing. We hope that the impacts of the service will have benefit for children and young people now, which will continue into adulthood.”

The LINK service is currently available to young people living in North and West Cumbria, within the Penrith and Eden, Keswick and Solway, Longtown and Brampton areas. Initially the service will work predominantly with children and young people who have been identified by GP’s and school pastoral leads in requiring support to help manage their emotional health and wellbeing.

A digital launch for LINK will run throughout this week, to raise awareness of the service and its offering with health professionals, schools and other organisations across the region.

For further details about the LINK service or to make a request for support, please email linkcumbria@barnardos.org.uk.