Big Lottery Fund launches £75m programme for children with mental health issues

Dharmendra Kanani, BLF England director, says the HeadStart scheme will give 10 to 14-year-olds a better chance of dealing with the knocks and setbacks of life

Dharmendra Kanani
Dharmendra Kanani

The Big Lottery Fund has launched a £75m programme aimed at helping children at risk of developing long-term mental health issues. 

The HeadStart funding will be focused on 12 already identified areas where councils have been invited to form partnerships with local stakeholders, including charities, to run the scheme.

The programme is aimed at helping 10 to 14-year-olds improve their resilience and give them the skills and support needed to cope with adversity, the BLF said.

Each partnership will be given a £500,000 grant to develop pilot proposals with the aim of running pilot projects from September 2014. Their plans will be submitted to the BLF, which will select a number of projects to receive funding of between £5m and £10m over five years.

Charities and voluntary organisations can get involved with the programme by getting in touch with the partnerships, which will be listed on the BLF’s website.

The partnerships will focus primarily on schools through resilience lessons and tackling the stigma that can surround mental health issues.

The BLF said it worked with a panel of young people and asked how they wanted National Lottery money to help people their age – they identified mental health as one of their top concerns. 

Sarah Brennan, chief executive of the children and young people’s mental health charity YoungMinds, which is a member of the BLF’s expert panel for the HeadStart programme, said: "It is desperately sad that in an average classroom 10 children will have witnessed their parents separate, one will have experienced the death of a parent and seven will have been bullied – and yet there is no single approach to supporting all our children at this key stage in their development.

"This is why YoungMinds is delighted to support the HeadStart investment that looks to support the emotional resilience of all participating 10 to 14-year-olds and provide targeted early intervention for those children who need more help at this key time in their lives."

The 12 areas are:








Lewisham (south London)


Newham (east London)



Dharmendra Kanani, BLF England director, said: "The BLF is investing £75m to enable children to have a better chance of dealing with the knocks and setbacks in life that many adults take for granted. For many young people, how they feel about themselves, their self-esteem, confidence or negative peer pressure can become deeply troubling, take root and lead to crime, self-harm or even suicide."

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