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Professional Testimonials

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Tina McPhie (Throughcare Nurse – NHS)

I think this is a service that could be very valuable, many YP miss out on services due to the 9-5 Mon-Fri offered and many vulnerable Young People do not live in a 9-5 world. Acknowledging trauma, chaos and vulnerability amongst YP is a must and to have services that they may engage with at times when they are able to and when no one else is around for them. Huge access to service for out of hours fantastic concept and much needed.

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Jack Marshall (Capacity Building Development Officer – Voluntary Sector Gateway)

As capacity building officer at VSGWL I have been involved with SMILE since early 2015 when approached to discuss some general ideas and asked to offer support to the development of the service. The level of professionalism was evident from the start and Declan is a highly skilled practitioner who has carried out a wide ranging scope of information gathering and due diligence in setting up the organisation. He has a highly motivated, skilled and professional board and his enthusiasm and knowledge will be invaluable. The need of this sort of service is clear and he has researched the subject deeply and effectively. I have no hesitation to recommend his service and work to date.

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Laura Dougall (Health Improvement Team)

Young people who are in the 11 – 24 age group are often faced with additional challenges in accessing services as they do not “fit” within children’s or adults services neatly. The number of young people reporting issues with their mental wellbeing has risen and been well publicised within research provided by childline. Childline report that they are contacted by a child (under 18 years) every 6 minutes. The same report also recognises the challenge that older young people experience in accessing support around their mental well being. This evidences that having more support available to young people to explore their mental wellbeing can only be a positive step to offering choice about where, how and when young people are seen within services. Young people who are in the most deprived areas continue to be most at risk of developing poor mental health outcomes. The Health Improvement Team would offer support to the SMILE service by offering staff opportunities to engage in training around, health inequalities, food and health, physical activity and mental well being.

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Louise Ellis (Community Education Worker)

I have worked in West Lothian with young people aged 7 – 21 for almost 8 years. Throughout this time I have witnessed young people going through and dealing with the aftermath of some very difficult circumstances, some of which I think adults would struggle to understand and process. I do believe over the years, I have seen an increase in young people who are struggling with their mental health and wellbeing. As well as more widely recognised difficult situations such as family breakdown, bereavement and illness, recently I have observed a rise in issues relating to cyber bullying, poverty, low self esteem, resilience and social anxiety and to young people at a much younger age. SMILE is an essential service in West Lothian, many young people are asking for help but unfortunately there are long waiting lists which mean they may not receive the help they need when they need it, which can exacerbate the situation. In my opinion young people have a much greater understanding of wellbeing than ever before and are actively seeking help for themselves, so surely we must strive to do everything in our power to ensure that such a vital provision is available to them.

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Susan Clelland (Skills Training Programme)

I have been working in West Lothian for two and a half years now working with young people 16-19 who are the most disengaged and trying to get them back into training / employment. Through my time working in West Lothian with these young people it has become increasingly clear that mental health in young people in becoming a growing concern year on year. This is becoming a major barrier from them moving on in their lives and being able to cope with the challenges life will continue to throw at them. In my experience waiting lists are now between 12-18 months for mental health support for young people in West Lothian. When I heard about S.M.I.L.E Counselling and the approach they aim to take by making their service client led and working around their timescales etc I thought it was excellent and just what we need. Delivery of an outreach service evenings and weekends would be invaluable to these young people in West Lothian and help break down the barriers that they face so they can truly make the most of themselves and fulfil the full potential that I and other workers know they possess. I know that the delivery and presence of such a service in the area would make things much more manageable for young people and in turn have a domino effect on those around them i.e. family, friends and even local community. I fully endorse S.M.I.L.E Counselling and what they aim to provide and can say that this service cannot come quick enough to the area.

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Chris Smart (Skills Development Scotland)

From our perspective at Skills Development Scotland, the service SMILE proposes to provide will be invaluable. Our post-school team who support the 11-24 age group are increasingly familiar with clients suffering social anxiety, depression and other forms of emotional distress. To them, the chance of someone being there to listen and provide support through counselling could be the lifeline that makes all the difference.

We were particularly keen to hear the service will be offered free to users and based around their availability and geographical location (rather than the other way around). Furthermore, the proposal that SMILE will provide support for individuals in the evenings as well as weekends further adds to its convenience for clients. We also felt the commitment to meet clients within 4 weeks (or on the same day if the individual is experiencing self-harm / suicidal thoughts) was admirable.

We definitely feel there is a gap for this type of service. Although there is currently counselling available for certain groups (if you look hard enough) there tends to be countless limitiations on who is eligible and also when/where the service can be accessed. This is what is so appealing about the SMILE proposal. The only criteria is users are aged between 11-24 and suffering emotional hurt and pain. From speaking with colleagues within SDS and partners throughout West Lothian there is an overwhealming sense that the SMILE counselling outreach service would go some way to filling the void.

SDS would be delighted to work alongside SMILE in partnership for the good of our clients and sincerely hope this project proves to be a success. The benefits SMILE could bring to 11-24 year olds suffering from emotional hurt and pain would be multiple. Firstly for the improved mental health and well-being of this client group, but additionally, the increased confidence the service would impart helping those individuals get their lives back on track and encouraging them to take up work, training or learning opportunities to enhance their lives.

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Jean Gormley (Bles Training)

BLES Training – The need for SMILE Counselling

BLES Training is a voluntary charitable organisation that delivers a dedicated training programme for 11 to 24 year old young people in West Lothian.  We provide support / training in core, personal, life, employability and occupational skills, with the opportunity to gain a qualification.  We look at the whole person, not just qualifications, and have a clear commitment to help progress all young people to access occupational skills and a job.

The majority of the young people which join us come from troubled backgrounds and more often than not, did not engage with school.  We work closely with a number of agencies in the West Lothian area to provide the necessary support for our young people but over the years, the support which is needed on a personal/life basis has gradually been eroded.  We work with Adult Basic Education who provide support for those needing help with reading, writing & calculations and West Lothian Drug & Alcohol Service (WLDAS) who provide support for those needing who want help to stop smoking, whether it is drugs or tobacco, and help to stop drinking.  We did partner with Penumbra who provided the personal/life support via a counsellor who came to us one day per week however this service stopped when funding was withdrawn.

This leaves a huge gap in the support that our young people need as the majority of our young people live very troubled home lives with very little, or no, support from family members.  Many also come from homes where there is very little financial support which means they often have no money for lunch or food.  BLES provide a daily breakfast for all our trainees and also ensure that no-one goes without a lunch.

We come into contact with young people who have problems that they need to talk to someone about on a regular basis however none of the staff at BLES are qualified counsellors, although staff have attended the ASSIST training.  We do encourage our young people to come and talk to us if they feel the need to speak to someone and have what we call “Jean’s chair” which is a chair in the admin office and if someone feels they just need a break if things are getting on top of them, they can come through and sit with Jean and either talk if they want to or just get some peace and quiet.

This is not enough however as some of the needs of our young people are outwith the support which BLES can provide for them and are not qualified to deal with.  There is nowhere in West Lothian for these young people to go to and get the support that they need.  We have attempted to contact various agencies to get support however waiting lists can be as long as 18 months which is totally unacceptable especially when the young person is needing help NOW and may have a suicide plan already in place.

I have attached short case studies of three young people who we have dealt with in the last two months alone.  Let me assure you there are many, many more young people like these which makes the need for an outreach bespoke counselling service essential in West Lothian.

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Caroline Graham (More Choices More Chances)

I am a More Choices More Chances Keyworker for West Lothian Council. I am based in a local secondary school where my caseload is comprised of the hardest to reach pupils who are at risk of becoming ‘NEET’ when they leave school. These clients often have many complex barriers which they have to overcome in order for them to progress onto a positive destination. These personal issues often require a professional counselling intervention with a rapid response. However, at the moment there is a 12 month waiting list for counselling services in West Lothian. This is not responsive to the needs of clients who need immediate help, support and counselling S.M.I.L.E counselling is a much needed and valuable resource in West Lothian. A free and easy to access counselling service for vulnerable young people who are suffering from a range of issues is paramount for their emotional wellbeing. The outreach service being offered is also a very important aspect as many clients are unable to self-travel and also public transport routes are not always accessible especially from the most rural areas of the county where clients may be socially isolated. Therefore, for professionals to travel to their communities is very important. Likewise, the ability for these professionals to see clients in evenings is another huge advantage as many of these clients are often sleeping through the day and awake in the evenings. I feel that S.M.I.L.E and the More Choices More Chances team could work in partnership to support clients overcome emotional barriers and become empowered so that they can then move forward onto positive destinations with much more self confidence and assertiveness. This will have a profound effect on clients in the short term but will also support vulnerable young people in West Lothian to progress having a positive effect on the long term social and economic landscape of the county. All in all, I feel that there is a gap in West Lothian for this type of immediate and flexible counselling service for vulnerable young people. The service is something in which our team has sought out for a number of years and one in which we will access readily.