The support from social investor Key Fund from the Social Enterprise Support Fund (SESF) will help kick-start a new service, Citizen Navigator, designed to signpost clients to essential support, such as housing and benefits.

Martin Hogg, founder and MD of Citizen Coaching, said: “We came up with the idea of Citizen Navigator after we noticed people who came to us for counselling had so many fundamental problems going on in life, it got in the way of the counselling.”

The rise in complex mental health cases combined with life issues getting in the way of treatment has meant clients have needed more sessions, resulting in waiting lists.

Based in one of the most disadvantaged communities in the UK, Citizen Coaching delivers contracts for the NHS, local colleges and companies; it supports 4,000 people a year and around 75% of clients are aged 14 to 24.

Martin said: “The young people aren’t engaging in counselling because they are really just hanging on. We’re seeing a loss of hope, and a big increase in self-harm and disordered eating in those as young as 11. They’re asking, ‘What’s the point? Why should we go back to school?’ Recent figures show 100,000 ghost children in the UK, who haven’t returned to school and have disappeared off the radar.”
NHS leaders urged government this week to tackle the huge rise in depression, anxiety, psychosis and eating disorders since Covid hit, warning millions in England face ‘second pandemic’ of mental health issues. There has been a 72% increase in children and teenagers referred for urgent support for eating disorders in one year.

Key Fund granted £75k from the SESF to Citizen Coaching last year to help it navigate Covid, and has invested in Citizen Coaching since 2018. The finance has helped expand and develop its online offer – which was particularly crucial when face-to-face sessions stopped in lockdown.

The Citizen Navigator programme is led by psychotherapist Katie Hitchinson. Prior to Citizen Coaching, her career specialised in social prescribing, as well as working for a number of charities.

Katie said: “My skills and passion for social prescribing feeds into this new role. So far, I’m building relationships with up to 70 charities, social enterprises, statutory and voluntary groups for Citizen Navigator. It’s important when we’re signposting vulnerable individuals who haven’t reached out previously that they have a positive experience.”

Citizen Coaching’s counselling services have a strong track-record. Over 80% of its clients report better relationships, increased well-being and are more able to attend work, study or training after counselling.

Katie said: “If people aren’t in a secure home or can’t pay their bills it causes such an effect they can’t engage in the therapy. GPs don’t have the time or capacity to signpost patients to other support services, so they come straight to us. Often these individuals aren’t engaging or aware of other support available. Through our Navigator programme we hope to address those issues.”

She added: “We want them to empower them for the future to take some of the resources we give them, so they can be more self-sufficient when they need help.”

This ‘super local network’ is also a way to rebuild after Covid, when so many essential services closed and local connections were lost.

The £50k grant has ensured a full-time role for Katie as a Citizen Navigator.

In response to the pandemic, Key Fund Key - the North’s pioneering social investor - worked with partners to secure an £18.7m Social Enterprise Support Fund, made possible by The National Lottery Community Fund.

Matt Smith, CEO of Key Fund, said: “We’re proud to support Citizen Coaching and the enormous social impact the organisation has across Birmingham. The UK’s social enterprises have been at the heart of community survival and recovery during the crisis. In a post-Covid world, where the inequalities within society are even starker, work of organisations like Citizen Coaching will be needed more than ever.”