Pioneering brain injury service set to expand

A pioneering new service for children and young people affected by acquired brain injury is set to expand nationwide after the Department for Education (DfE) announced that it has awarded a grant of £400,000 to The Children's Trust. The grant will enable specialist services to be set up in London, Hampshire and the West Country alongside the existing services in South Yorkshire and East Midlands. The Children's Trust, the UK's leading charity for children with brain injury, has been running the service from Sheffield Children's Hospital where it first started in 2010 and Nottingham Children's Hospital for the last two years, with over 1000 children having been referred during that time. Over 40,000 children a year are left with a brain injury as a result of accident or illness. In many cases, children recover from the physical effects of an accident but are left with hidden needs that could easily be overlooked. These could include cognitive and communication challenges, problems with behaviour or social skills, and changes to mood and emotions, all of which can impact on their ability to cope well at home or in school. To meet these very specific challenges, The Children's Trust has created the role of 'Brain Injury Specialist', clinicians based in large children's hospitals and providing direct specialist support to children and their families. Katy James, Head of Brain Injury Community Services at The Children's Trust explained:
"Brain injury can be a life changing and ongoing condition and its effects can often be hidden, which means that the challenges children face are not being recognised and go unsupported. In particular, children can appear to be healthy and have made a good physical recovery but are struggling with the pressures of school and relationships in the context of changes brought about by their brain injury, which in turn can lead to issues of low self-esteem and at its worst, mental health issues. Based on our experience of working with children with brain injury, we felt it was important that local specialist support was provided by clinicians who understand the impact of acquired brain injury in children. We have found that a critical factor is early referral to the service and integrated working across the community teams, school staff and the child's family". Until now the service has been funded from voluntary donations and now, as a result of the DfE Grant, there are plans to establish new services in University Hospital Southampton, St George's Hospital, London and Bristol Royal Hospital for Children. The Children's Trust estimates that approximately 1300 children can be screened over the next 12 months to identify and support mental health needs they may have. Dalton Leong, Chief Executive of The Children's Trust, said:
"We are delighted to have secured this grant and extremely grateful to the Department for Education. This will enable us to reach so many more children currently not receiving the support they need. It is the first time that the department has recognised the importance of supporting children with acquired brain injury as a specific group which is a huge step for us as an organisation. We set up the Brain Injury Specialist teams in Sheffield and Nottingham using voluntary donations because we saw an unmet need for children with brain injury that, if not addressed at an early stage, could result in significant problems in later life, including the potential for youth offending. "Our ambition is to ensure that children with brain injury all across the UK can access timely expert and specialist support and the grant from the DfE is an important milestone in achieving this ambition." Information provided by the Press Office at The Children's Trust. Contact Stacey Daniells on 01737 365865

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