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BEST PRACTICE - LGC AWARDS

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Stockport MBC provides online counselling and advice for young people...
Stockport MBC provides online counselling and advice for young people

The internet may no longer be cutting edge, but young people in Stockport find it a lifeline during difficult times.

Stockport MBC has set up kooth.com, a website that provides counselling and advice to young people. It is an early intervention service and the council hopes to help young people before their problems become insurmountable.

Launched in March last year, the site offers confidential help and advice to young people aged 11-25 years. They can log on at any time, day or night, and have access to a team of professional counsellors and outreach workers. A response is provided within 24 hours if a counsellor is not online at the time of visiting.

Project administrator Gill Askew says Stockport took this innovative approach to support young people in anticipation of the green paper Every Child Matters.

'The council discovered a growing number of youngsters in Stockport felt uncomfortable approaching people face to face when experiencing problems,' she says.

One of the main aims of the project was to make it easier for young people to access counselling services. Previously, young people had to be referred to an assessment team and families and children were not receiving immediate help until there was a crisis.

Elaine Bouesfield, service director at Xen Zone, which runs kooth.com in conjunction with Stockport MBC, is very excited about future plans for expansion.

'A number of other local authorities have asked to buy the service and so the goal is to make it a national service. The system is built so other local authorities can easily adopt it,' she says.

Kooth.com is currently used by nine schools and five colleges, with several more lined up. It has about 1,000 registered users. In the first few months of its launch, the project - which won the innovation award at this year's LGC Awards - held more than 300 online counselling sessions, giving advice on issues such as rape, bullying and depression.

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