Innovation & Enterprise


UCL and Islington Council collaborate to empower young people with better mental health support

Empower Islington, a project co-led by UCL and Islington Council, has helped young Islington residents co-create more effective and sustained mental health support.

Islington youth councillors with the UCL Empower Islington Research Team

12 April 2024

The pandemic may be a few years behind us, but the effects of it are still being felt, particularly on young people living with existing inequalities. 

“With 52% of Islington residents identifying as being from black, Asian minority and ethnic backgrounds, many local young people were disproportionately affected by the pandemic in terms of poverty, health disparity, racism and health access. 

“Because of this, we could see many young people were in clear need of employment, education, and mental health support,” explains Dr Keri Wong Associate Professor of Developmental Psychology at the IOE, UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society.

Dr Wong and her team have been listening to what young residents wanted in terms of support, and co-creating tailored workshops to meet their needs. The five sessions they’ve developed (with templates freely accessible online) have covered everything from university life and improving sleep, to rethinking body image. Other sessions focused on social media use, and using storytelling and art to improve mental health, all topics chosen to address the areas young people wanted help with most.

The project builds on a previous collaboration, the CopeWell Study, run with the Jamal Edwards Delve charity in West London.

Support from UCL Innovation & Enterprise

This knowledge exchange project has been supported by the UKRI Higher Education Innovation Funding (HEIF), managed by the Knowledge Exchange Funding team in UCL Innovation & Enterprise.

The Business and Innovation Partnerships team also helped with the partnership process, including the funding application and introducing the team to relevant contacts in the Council.

Working together to create a more equitable future 

Over 30 young people have now benefitted from the training, and the Council are looking to offer it as a regular part of their support through their Youth Progression Team.

Siobhan Scantlebury, Head of Youth Progression at Islington Council, said: “This is an exciting collaboration with UCL that's helping us to shape our employment, education and training services for young people based on their needs and aspirations. Working with an expert in this area like UCL, and amplifying the voices of young people locally, will mean we can better respond to what our young residents need with clearer insights and more targeted support.”

This project is just one example of how UCL and the London Borough of Islington are working in partnership to shape a more equitable future for the borough. The two organisations signed a Memorandum of Understanding in November 2023 to underline their shared commitment to working more closely together.

Translating research into policy and practice

Dr Wong adds: “Completing the CopeWell and Empower Islington projects helped me put my research into practice, to see what was working in the community, what were the gaps in the system, and what more needs to be done. 

“These experiences have pushed me to thinking more deeply about the importance of connecting my research, and others, to policy. I want to make sure the communities I hear from, particularly the voices of minority ethnic groups and those living with existing inequalities, are also heard in policy spaces. 

“I’m now working as an ESRC Policy Fellow in the Home Office to see how best to translate research into policy and practice and to get policymakers into academic spaces to join in on our discussions.”

Read more about Dr Keri Wong’s experience of co-creating mental health support with young people.

Watch Dr Wong share the study’s findings on Independent Sage.

Watch a video about the Empower Islington Project

YouTube Widget Placeholderhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_KDX5r9uUc


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