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New sanctuary for children and young people


A new Sanctuary for Children and Young People in emotional and mental health crisis, intended as an alternative to turning up at emergency departments, has opened in Swansea Bay.

The Children and Young People Sanctuary Service is a partnership between Swansea Bay University Health Board’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) and the mental health charity, Adferiad (formerly Hafal).

This is a project which has been funded by the Welsh Government as part of an admission avoidance pilot which considered how young people can be better supported when in crisis.

The Llansamlet-based service, designed for 12 to 18-year-olds, is currently accessed through referral by CAMHS’s crisis team. There are plans to broaden the access pathway in the future.

Claire Norman Claire Norman, lead nurse for CAMHS, (pictured left) said: “It’s a service for children and young people who are experiencing emotional and mental health crisis and may need more support than can be provided in their current support systems.

“Previously when in distress, young people would present to areas such as the Children’s Assessment Unit or Emergency Department in Morriston Hospital which is not the best place to be when experiencing emotional distress or a mental health crisis.  

“There’s been a recognition that there wasn’t somewhere for young people to go – the Sanctuary gives them the opportunity to gain support in a more appropriate calming environment.
“It’s a more appropriate setting from the very beginning for a young person to access mental health support. It takes them out of the chaos and busyness of an emergency unit.”

Claire said that the move addressed a growing concern. 

She said: “There has been an increase in mental health presentations over the years, even more so since the pandemic.  

“To have a place for young people to come and have access to the right support, at the right time, in the right setting, gives them an opportunity to explore what has been going on for them, what’s led them to being where they are, and then give them an opportunity to think about how they could do things differently in the future. 

“It’s a three-step approach: supporting young people for the immediate crisis in a more appropriate setting, then exploring what led to the emotions, and then utilising techniques and coping mechanisms to support them to manage these emotions in the future.” 

Lianne Martynski Lianne Martynski, Director of Operations at Adferiad, (pictured right) echoed the view that the service was much needed.

She said: “There hasn’t really been an appropriate facility for children and young people with mental health issues or at risk of mental health crisis.

“There has been a big need for this kind of service and we’re delighted to work in partnership to fill the gap that previously existed.” 

Trained staff use a range of strategies to help young people.

Lianne said: “The idea is that when someone comes here it gives them an opportunity to deescalate. The staff here will support people to ground themselves and self-regulate. It can be anything from just a chat, a well-being activity, a group session or a one to one.”

The former retail unit has had a complete makeover, with calming colours and fabrics, soft furnishings and comfortable seating.

As well as a kitchen and communal area, there is a games room and one on one rooms for confidential support and interventions to be provided.

Lianne said: “We have game consoles, televisions, table tennis and table-top football, and a sensory room.” 

“The colour scheme came from a group of young people – they chose calming colours. 
They had a lot of input into the furniture choices as well.

“For us, it was a case of making sure the facility was fit for purpose – not for us as adults, but for young people. I think we have achieved that, everyone who comes in here have said it’s warm, it’s welcoming, it’s calming. Everything we wanted it to be.”

At present the service operates 7 days a week, from 10am to 10pm, but from the end of July it will open 24/7.

And to date it is proving very successful.

Lianne said: “We’ve had some fantastic feedback on the service itself, not just from the young people who have used the service but their parents as well.”

Part of that success could be down to seeking the views of service users at the planning stage of the project.

One said: “I gave some input on how they could set the place up to benefit young people who are struggling with their mental health. It’s nice to see my ideas implemented in a place like this. It’s really well done.

“I found it difficult growing up with mental health – I wish there was somewhere like this available to me when I was younger, but there wasn’t. 

“I think it’s a great thing that they have it in place. If you can help someone under 18 sort their problems out it leads to a well-balanced adult who can function in society better. It’s really helping people at a crucial stage of their lives.” 

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