Off The Record Covid Response


Published: 11th October 2021
Categories: News, Community & Volunteer, Hampshire, Advice

Off The Record is a young person’s emotional health & wellbeing charity supporting young people living in Havant, Hampshire.

We are the only free at point of access mental service beyond the NHS, reaching out to 21,000 young people living in the Havant Borough, supporting in the region of 1,200 young people. We have been involved in the lives of local young people for over 42 years often working with those in dysfunctional and self-destructive family situations with complex relationships and low life aspirations.

Public Health England stated that “The COVID-19 outbreak has caused an increase in anxiety in young people. 41% say they are lonelier than before lockdown, 38% more sad and 37% more stressed”. Looking at our records for Sept 20 – Feb 21 v’s the same period in the previous year we see a marked increase in ‘depressive disorders’.

  • depression, low mood and suicidal feelings accounted for 12% of clients which is an increase of 75 year on year.
  • More worryingly, this trend continued to accelerate and from Jan- to mid-February 2021, these same ‘depressive disorder’ categories now account for 40% of all lead presentations, and 7% of these including a disclosed suicide attempt.
  • Separately, and likely a reflection of the amount of controlled time at home, ‘family and relationship issues’ have grown in last the 6-month year on year period: rising from 9% to 13% overall and has now grown to account for 17% of lead presentations.

These worrying changes are a direct consequence of the pandemic and restrictions placed upon young people’s lives. More than ever before young people need someone that is solely there for them, who has the skills and capabilities to provide therapeutic support, and a tailored intervention that supports them to develop coping strategies and resilience at a time when schools, CAMHS and other agencies are experiencing unprecedented demand and unable to provide the face-to-face contact needed.

In response to the dramatic impact the pandemic is having on the lives of young people locally we:

  • Mobilised our volunteer workforce in Jul- Aug 2020 to deliver telephone counselling remotely from home via telephone or Zoom, with associated training and a hardware roll out project. Striving for the mental health & wellbeing of young people
  • Delivered a safe controlled face to face offer for the most vulnerable clients, targeting those in tech poverty and without a safe space at home.
  • During Oct- Nov we saw 78 new referrals, an increase of 40% compared to the same period last year. Simultaneously, we experienced losses in our volunteering base due to shielding as well as family commitments. Volunteers rightly prioritised the need for paid work and caring responsibilities.
  • In response to the challenge of decreasing resources and increasing demand in we sought COVID emergency funding to employ paid counsellors for the first time to match the demand.

Recovering well from the crisis in 2021

Since the final lockdown lifted, we have begun to reopen the centre to more face-to-face clients as well as delivering remote counselling, so we are able to help more young people who need our services than ever before.

Reopening is a major achievement, which has been as the result of hard work and devotion of our small staff team, and team of volunteers. However, we still face the challenge of unprecedented incoming demand for services, and a service model that requires additional funding for paid qualified counsellors in response to the pandemic’s effects on the voluntary sector and volunteering.

Urgent need for funds

The funding landscape over the last 12 months has been incredibly challenging for grassroots charities as the majority of current grant-makers and new Government initiatives have prioritised front-line COVID related activities for example foodbanks, homelessness and welfare causes. There has been little opportunity to secure longer-term and core funding. We had several multi-year funding grants come to an end March 2021 and we project a £178,000 budget deficit next financial year.

To minimise the wait for young people to see a counselling professional we need to continue our programme of paid Counselling staff as well as deliver our group work at session in Leigh Park Community Centre.

We are asking you to help us help the young people of the Havant Borough by donating funds to keep our counselling and group work services keep up with demand.

Thank you for considering our proposal

"Everything I learned stayed with me. Every hurdle or trauma I came across in my life, I faced using all the tools Off the Record had taught me. Life did get hard again. The difference is, I had the strength and the knowledge to value my life and handle things”. Boy aged 16

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