St Basils and University of Birmingham host Joint Symposium to share successes of partnership work to create transformational services for young people
28 APR 2016



St Basils and the University of Birmingham hosted a joint Symposium on 21st April 2016 at Edgbaston Cricket Ground, to celebrate and share the learning from our jointly developed Psychologically Informed Programmes for homeless young people.

The programmes include training and reflective practice for St Basils support staff, Mental Skills Training (MST) for life for young people and in 2015, the partnership developed a Psychologically Informed Parenting programme for all parents of young people. 

The development of all these programmes follow the decision St Basils took in 2011 following national research to develop as a ‘Psychologically Informed Environment’ (PIE) supported by Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Trust. In 2012, they initiated a high intensity ‘Boost’ programme for young people who struggled to re-engage with education, training and employment. In 2013, this was supplemented by the Mental Skills Training (MST) for life programme, developed and delivered in partnership with the University of Birmingham’s School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences. This is an interactive 10 week programme, aimed at helping young people achieve their potential by utilising the same mental strategies as top athletes to train themselves to maintain a positive mind-set, continue to strive towards their goals and overcome set-backs. This programme culminates in a hugely popular 3 day residential at the University’s Raymond Priestley Centre in the Lake District where young people have the opportunity to apply the techniques they have learnt.

In 2015, the partnership extended to involve Brap, the Human Rights Agency to develop Psychologically informed Parenting workshops to provide preventative help to parents ‘upstream’, as family and relationship conflict remains the main trigger for youth homelessness.

The decision to become a Psychologically Informed Environment was made in part due to St Basils seeing a rise in young people with high or complex needs. Their relative lack of life experience also meant they were in need of more intensive support.

St Basils has services across the West Midlands and in 2015-16 over 4700 young people who were homeless or at risk of homelessness sought assistance and over 1200 were housed in St Basils supported accommodation schemes. In the same time frame 77% of young residents who had been NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) when they presented at St Basils re-engaged with education, training and employment.

Speakers at the Symposium included Consultant Clinical Psychologist Dr Amanda Skeate, Forward Thinking Birmingham, who has assisted with integrating Psychologically Informed approaches at St Basils and Dr Jennifer Cumming, Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Psychology at the University of Birmingham who has assisted in rolling out the Mental Skills Training for Life programme across all St Basils schemes.

Dr Jennifer Cumming highlighted that these programmes offer a tailored approach. The young people are at the centre of these services, and St Basils co-ordinates support around them, constantly adapting services to meet their needs.

Holi, 21, a St Basils young person also spoke at the event, sharing how becoming homeless through family breakdown impacted on her mental health and how she feels the Mental Skills Training for life programme has boosted her confidence and helped her to turn the situation around.

The occasion was also an opportunity to thank the funders of the programmes featured including the Department for Communities and Local Government, Monday Trust, Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust, London Housing Foundation, University of Birmingham and  Forward Thinking Birmingham. 

Prof Myra Nimmo, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Head of College of Life and Environmental Sciences at University of Birmingham, co-chaired the session and spoke of the University’s history as a civic University; it’s mission to meet the needs of the region and therefore how this work with St Basils to ensure that research findings can be applied to assist the local community, is absolutely central to the University’s key aims.  

St Basils Chief Executive Jean Templeton pointed out that as we get better at preventing homelessness, those who come into supported housing are more likely to be young people who have higher and more complex needs, we therefore need to invest in effective interventions which develop the skills and resilience in both staff and young people to address complex trauma and transform life chances.

She added: “Young people with complex needs have often travelled through many systems and environments be that the care system, youth offending system and subsequently the youth homelessness system; those young people deserve more than service tourism. Joint commissioning has the potential to invest in effective, evidence based programmes of support which have the potential to engage and transform lives.” 

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