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Meet the team: Healthy Lives


  • Jo Robins, Consultant in Public Health, Shropshire Council
  • Val Cross, Health and Wellbeing Co-ordinator
  • Anne Marie Speke, Children's Public Health Lead
  • Community Enablement Team
  • Local GP with interest in Young People's Health - TBC

We have set up a social prescribing programme for adults, operating out of GP practices and local community centres in the north of the county. Recent referral data shows an increasing number of young adults being referred by the local Job Centre, for 18-24 year olds with issues around isolation and mental health. We want to extend this approach to focus on young adults especially those in rural and isolated parts of the county where ongoing support is lacking.

The rural nature of the county means that populations are dispersed and young people struggle to maintain friendship groups in their community. During the school years 60% of school aged children in Shropshire are ‘transported’ into school and college. This makes it more difficult once they reach later teenage years to forge close relationships with peers in their own community. They may be part of the rural isolated farming communities, may have a history of low level mental health challenges or lacking in confidence. Working with local GPs and through our teams in the council and job centres will provide access to young people.

We also hear from recent national reports that young people aged 16-24 are lonely. This is a crucial time in their development especially in preparation for adulthood. If certain protective factors are lacking this can result in poorer mental health and wellbeing.

One of our main goals would be to ensure they develop a set of protective factors including a strong sense of self and belonging, and developing resilience. Our aim is to ensure they maintain and build on peer support, develop a skill base to access job opportunities, participate in leisure and social activities and have at least 3 supportive relationships around them.

We would target one or two rural locations to identify young adults via one or more, of the following routes:

  • Job Centre
  • local business enterprise centre
  • local GP practice in a rural community
  • services working with families at risk
  • a rural secondary school

The project would recruit and identify a cohort of young people and:

  • Provide them with a coaching support role Access to social and leisure activities
  • Development of personal skills and aspirations
  • Development of relationship to a key individual and the wider community 

In addition a small grant scheme would be provided to initiate ‘friendship peer support groups with other young adults either in the same locality or further afield, to initiate a start up business, or support them to develop a creative skill or passion linked to music, art or sport/leisure.

An assessment of their levels of loneliness would be made at the start supplemented by a questionnaire on resilience.

They would be active leaders in the programme, developing skills and confidence through coaching and training to take on a peer support role, thus further developing their own resilience but also acting as peer supporters for others.


  1. Improved health and wellbeing especially in relation to a reduction in loneliness and wellbeing
  2. Identification and development of protective factors amongst young people
  3. Self efficacy through peer support
  4. Development of new skills and access to wider leisure and social activities
  5. Identification of the positive contribution young people make in a community
  6. Increase in skills and access to employment

Benefits for the Q Community:

  1. New learning about the importance of tailoring services and reaching young people in a rural area and the benefits of working with primary care and wider organisations
  2. New learning on what factors affect and impact on isolation in young people
  3. New learning about the protective factors for young adults
  4. New model of social prescribing for young people is tested out.


How you can contribute

  • Your support for this project idea
  • Details of your experience in this area.


  1. Hello,

    I think this is a great opportunity to support young people as they make their way into adulthood. As a Physiotherapist, I often see people 16- 25  with MSK problems and most of the time the issues originate from long periods of sitting alone communicating with the outside world via a screen and they are often isolated from peers.This would help them make sense of the world, which is a tricky business at any age!

    Great work!




    1. Thank you for your support Jayne and your encouraging comments. Regards Tom

  2. Guest


    Commenting in a personal capacity.

    I'm a country dweller ,parent of three grown up children all of whom were fortunate enough to have parents who would drive them anywhere and helped them to assess social groups for the cohesiveness you describe .Also fortunate enough to be able to host our own social gatherings to combat the fact we live on a farm down country lanes with no bus service ,schools or youth clubs .On reflection (which is always a luxurious place to be) ,I would say that we were especially lucky to have a local train station available ,which enabled them to access a larger town where they could do teenager stuff .Young farmers clubs were wonderful too and they exist for young people not just farmers !

    The single best avenue for social circle and support from my experience was securing a part time job from age 16-18  .One job leading to another and interpersonal skills,behaviours and resilience developing from then onwards .The part time jobs were generally  poorly paid in the care industry .Care homes ,queen of cmmode jobs ,peeling vegetables ,making beds but learning so much and developing friendships which survive to this day .The learning was top quality and instrumental in shaping their career choices aspiration and values .These opportunities provided the very best of learning and a healthy respect for others, for whom the jobs were their life jobs not a stepping stone to university .

    Not sure how this helps your thinking but i do think this group of our community is often forgotten so very pleased to see this initiative taking place .



    1. Jane, Thank you for your comments. As a result I have contacted NCS, the National Citizen Service, who run programmes for young people and follow up with help finding employment and are active in many rural areas including ours. Our local provider of the NCS programme has agreed to have a look at our project idea and see if they can help or become involved. Regards Tom

  3. Guest

    Nerys, thanks so much for your supportive comments, the data that you mention really sets the national perspective for this and I've taken a look at the framework that you mention which is really useful to outline the protective factors. We've locally just carried out a mental health needs assessment and whilst young women have the highest rates of common mental health disorders overall, the highest rates in men are in the 15-24 year old range.

    We have also considered the impact of some of the social issues in addition and our market towns/more rural areas are likely to have other additional challenges linked to wider determinants of health.

    1. Hi Jo Glad to hear it was useful, best wishes


  4. Thank you for your support Guy Titley and Thomas Edmonds. Regards Tom

    1. Sorry, should have been Thomas Weijburg.

  5. Hi Thomas

    I very much support this idea. ONS wellbeing data for the UK shows that those aged 16-24 are the least likely of all age groups to have access to someone to talk to/help a lot compared to other age groups and also least likely compared to other ages to be able to rely on family/friends a lot (Understanding Society data).


    You might find the mental wellbeing impact assessment toolkit a good way to identify indicators of protective factors for mental wellbeing. The short form framework can be accessed here for a quick summary.


    best wishes with your project

    Nerys Edmonds


    1. Thank you for your support Nerys. The links you have provided will, I'm sure, be very useful. Regards Tom

  6. Hi Thomas,

    Some speculative thoughts on this great project. I wonder whether you should get Sport England involved - learn from them about how they might've used sport to combat loneliness etc.
    I also think of the localised Facebook groups that I'm in: they can really connect people up - I think virtual can enable face to face.

    I hope you might find good ways to measure changes in self-efficacy (sometimes called 'self-authorship' in education; in fact the infamous Jordan Peterson supports a self-authorship course with a different heritage, because of its helpfulness to young people:

    Maybe some of Carole Dweck's Fixed vs Growth mindset interventions would help here too. Though the extremely impressive evidence base for it is weakening somewhat, I think.


    1. Matthew, I forgot to mention my DofE work. This is a great scheme for young people and I have been involved since my youth. Regards Tom

    2. Matthew, I am a mentor this summer for 4 weeks at a National Citizens Service (NCS) programme This would be a great programme to link with, I'm also a British Canoe Union coach so I'll contact them as well. Regards Tom

    3. I've been away in the mountains. Now I'm back I'll follow up on your links. Thanks Matthew. Regards Tom

  7. Good luck with this.

    Young people are frequently disenfranchised, particularly young men, with a scary incidence of suicide. Giving isolated young people opportunities to develop social networks in 'real-life' rather than virtually seems like a great idea.

    1. Thanks for your support Guy

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