Supporting you people to stay healthy and well

An interview with Kristy Reid, Weymouth College Safeguarding Officer

In November 2023, we spoke to Kristy about the support she provides to students at the college, how she works with other services, and how she thinks health and care support for young people in Dorset could be improved.

What does your working role at Weymouth College involve?

Being on hand for the students and to help with any welfare needs. This could be mental health or just general wellbeing.

What type of support do you provide to the students?

It very much depends on the day, and it can be anything that they present me with. Most days I provide mentoring support, so this could just be a chat with the students about how they are or where they are in their life with regards to their mental health, where they are with their college work and generally finding out how they’re getting on.

I’m there to ask them if there is anything that I can do and to assist them in making things better. On occasions, we’ll get something thrown at us that is completely different and that will send us off on a little journey of fixing something that is out of the ordinary.

What are the key issues that students raise concerns about?

Mental health, friendship and family issues. I think the biggest one with teenagers is the friction between friendships, which I think comes with being a teenager. We also get the added issues of broken families, financial issues and general conflict.

A lot of teenagers think they need to leave home, right away and some of them do. Some of them are in situations where they need to leave, so sometimes we might need to get them out, but most of the issue is because they’ve had an argument with a friend or another student.

What are the biggest barriers that inhibit your support to the students?

The time that it takes to get a referral to other services and the length of time that the student must wait. Students don’t have a very high opinion of most outside support agencies.

Sometimes by the time the person receives an appointment with another service the issue has been resolved and it’s all sorted. That is all time wasted then. I find with a lot of students, once you get them to an appointment, unless it is an ongoing thing then they may have already dealt with the issue and no longer need that support.

Sometimes the students themselves are the barrier. You might have a student who is really stressed, can’t sleep, their parent is unwell, so they don’t want to put any more stress on their parent, so they come to me. I manage to get them a same day appointment with their GP, which is really rare, and then you find out that they didn’t attend because they didn’t read my text message. That can be frustrating!

What changes would make a big difference to your role and the support that you would like to provide?

It would be really useful to have an early help central hub, that we could phone or go to online, and then be advised on what the student needs and where they should go to access support. It would be helpful if the student could be put in contact with the appropriate service or support worker, rather than just being given a number and told that the service they have contacted is not the right place for them.

It would also be nice if we, as safeguarding staff, could have access to an online directory of family services and agencies. An online resource would help us, as it always takes time to speak to the appropriate person. You find that they’re on leave or off sick etc and then it gets lost in the ether.

If every child had access to a low-level support worker, then that would probably prevent a lot of situations that reach crisis point.

Are there any services that you are currently working with that assist you well in your role?

I have always found CAMHS Gateway (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service) to be quite good and the Sexual Trauma and Recovery Service (STARS).

If we speak to the youth working team, they will generally know some of the students and their families and will give us a little bit of an insight which enables us to work out what we need to do and how we should work with certain families.

 

Student, aged 23:

“My experience with the mental health services is that it took a long time to get support, even after several prolonged stays in mental health units. The support I had eventually was very good with both 1:1 psychology and regular face-to-face contact with a care coordinator. Both have now been withdrawn and I am on a waiting list for further 1:1 psychology. My only support at the moment from mental health services is six monthly reviews, often over the phone with the psychiatrist.”

Read our other interviews with Weymouth College staff

  • Sue Drafter, Head of Student Services and Deputy Designated Safeguarding Lead
  • Nola Smith, NEET Re-engagement Manager, and part of Student Services and the Safeguarding Team

Get in touch

For more information about local services and support or to share your feedback about young people’s mental health services in Dorset, please get in touch:

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