Safe Space support service for Hertfordshire pupils celebrates 20 years

Counselling in schools was first introduced by the county council to provide high quality mental health support services to young people

Wednesday, 3rd November 2021, 12:09 pm
Updated Wednesday, 3rd November 2021, 12:10 pm

Hertfordshire County Council’s school counselling and mentoring programme, Safe Space, celebrates its 20-year anniversary this month.

Counselling in schools was first introduced by the county council to provide high quality mental health support services to young people in 23 secondary schools in the county. The service grew and currently provides support in 250 primary and secondary schools.

Pupil counselling and mentoring services originally started as two separate pilot schemes in 2001 but merged into Safe Space in 2012.

Safe Space provides counselling, arts therapy and mentoring to children and young people across Hertfordshire.

The mentoring side of the programme has steadily grown too and now there are 80 volunteer mentors who provide support across the whole of the county for young people aged 11-19 (25 if they have a learning disability or are a care-leaver).

Teresa Heritage, cabinet member for children, young people and families, said: “This truly is fantastic service, and the team should celebrate all the amazing work they do and continue to provide.

"Mentoring and Counselling offers a safe non-judgmental space for our young people to explore feelings and work through any issues they are experiencing, whether this be concerning relationships, loss, stress, change or traumatic events. It is such a vital and invaluable support for many.”

The image has been used for illustrative purposes

Ryan* a young carer was referred to Safe Space by Carers in Hertfordshire and started working with his mentor, Peter.

Ryan had not been attending school for months due to severe bullying at a previous school and was receiving support from SENDIASS (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Information Advice and Support Services).

Ryan and his mum hardly left the house, and as a result Ryan was quite anxious about meeting other young people and just wanted someone to talk to.

Peter supported Ryan with not being in school and they went on regular dog walks together so they could talk and give Ryan a break from his caring duties.

Mentoring has enabled Ryan to develop his social skills and enhance his confidence and self-esteem.

Ryan said: “My mentor gave me lots of good ideas and advice and we did fun things. It was so good to get out of the house and we practised things like going to the shops which helped with my anxiety.

"Peter helped me to understand what to expect when I start my new school and helped me with my maths work. We talked about everything like when me and mum had an argument. I wouldn’t be doing as well as I am now at school or socially if it wasn’t for him. Having a mentor has been a positive experience and I’d tell other young people to give it a try.”

Ryan’s mum said “We call Peter our human angel. After speaking to him, Ryan is like a bubble floating in the air.”

For more information about Safe Space click here, or call 01992 588796, or email: [email protected].

*name has been changed to protect identity