Kent, Surrey and Sussex, has a higher than average number of children in care, unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and emotional difficulties, than in other parts of the country.

The NIHR ARC KSS was awarded £750,000 across three years to build research capacity in mental health.  As part of the National Institute for Health and Care Research's (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) Mental Health Capacity infrastructure, the ARC Kent, Surrey and Sussex (KSS) was awarded to help researchers, in clinical practice, develop and strengthen their skills and support children and young people's mental health and wellbeing.

Through this programme, the ARC KSS has been able to fund four individuals, developing research careers, who work with children and young people's services in the region, including: autistic children, care leavers, children who are delayed in their readiness to write, and children and young people with complex communication needs, to undertake a research project within their own organisation. 

The four individuals and their projects are:

  • Sophie McGrevey, Research Assistant at Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust
    Aims to develop a Quality-of-Life questionnaire specifically for autistic children in KSS, to identify their areas of personal need.

With the help of schools and young people with autism, this project aims to improve the health and wellbeing of autistic children.

  • Matt Bushell, Social Work Manager at Kent County Council
    Will investigate whether Occupational Therapy interventions could assist care leavers in better meeting their health, wellbeing, and personal outcomes, by improving functional skills and emotional regulation.
  • Stella Parkinson, Paediatric occupational therapist at East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust

Will be undertaking a project aiming to improve primary school teacher's knowledge and understanding of handwriting readiness from their training.

  • Hannah Griffiths, Clinical Scientist and Quality Manager at Chailey Clinical Services, a part of Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust
    Will be looking at how the provision of a communication aid affects the mental health and wellbeing of children with complex communication difficulties.

Hannah's project will highlight the importance of this area of healthcare.

Professor Sally Kendall, ARC KSS Research Capacity Lead, said:

"We are delighted to be able to fund and support these individuals to develop and strengthen their research skills by working on a project with findings and solutions that can be applied and put into practice.

"All the projects we selected, go hand in hand with our children and young people's theme's objectives, with a focus on the early detection and intervention to support the next generation of mental health researchers in the region."

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