New research partnership comissioned by NCS Trust to address the mental health emergency among young people

NCS Trust has commissioned an important new research partnership to address the growing mental health emergency among young people

16 May 2024

NCS Trust has partnered with StreetGames, the Social Prescribing Youth Network (SPYN) and researchers at University College London (UCL) to build evidence on the positive impact of youth sector provision on young people’s mental health. The partnership will deliver an evidence review which will inform the scope and design of a new social prescribing pilot, testing the role of youth provision and enrichment activities in supporting mental health among young people.

A recent NHS report showed that young people are facing a mental health emergency, with almost one in four young people aged 17-19 and one in five aged 20-25 identified as having a probable mental health problem. Early intervention and non-clinical support could help be part of the solution to this significant problem.

Youth sector provision, including non-formal learning and enrichment, has an important role to play in improving young people’s mental health and wellbeing in a non-clinical environment. Studies show that extracurricular activities can increase feelings of optimism and peer belonging, which can help to improve overall mental health outcomes among young people. For example, 75% of young people who took part in NCS, which offers a range of experiences for young people to help them grow their confidence, independence and skills, agree that they now ‘feel better prepared for challenges that life might bring me’.

However, the role of the youth sector is often under-recognised in youth mental health support services and policy. As mental health is a growing priority in the youth sector, NCS Trust is keen to contribute to evidence-building efforts, and emerging best practice in this space. The evidence, learning, and impact generated through the research and pilot will build the case for greater recognition and funding for youth sector provision through social prescribing services (non-clinical interventions for children and young people who are experiencing mild or non-clinical mental health problems).

The research project, known as YES (Youth sector Enabling Social prescribing), started in April and will run until November 2024.

Mark Gifford, CEO of NCS Trust, said:
“We recognise the positive impact that enrichment through NCS and other youth sector organisations can have on the mental health of young people.  NCS is delighted to partner with StreetGames and UCL, drawing on their combined expertise in the areas of youth and mental health.  This important research will provide useful evidence to inform how we shape our services for young people to ensure that we support their mental health needs in the most appropriate and effective way.”

Dr Daniel Hayes, Principal Investigator and Senior Research Fellow from UCL said:
“Many young people suffer from poor wellbeing and are not engaging with activities and community assets which can help improve this. We are excited to be launching YES which will contribute to the evidence base on the youth sector and wellbeing, as well as to provide options and recommendations on how to better integrate social prescribing with the youth sector to help more young people access it.”
NHS Digital (2023) Mental Health of Children and Young People in England

Liza Jarvis, Youth Social Prescribing Lead from StreetGames/SPYN said:
“We are excited to be working with UCL and NCS on the YES project to ensure more young people are able to access social prescribing in their local communities. It’s particularly important to support more young people to work out ‘what matters to them’ to improve both their physical and mental wellbeing and to continue to ensure young people are at the heart of all support they receive.”


About NCS 

NCS offers a range of experiences for young people that support them to become world ready and work ready — through growing their confidence, independence and skills; connecting them with people from all walks of life; and empowering them to make a difference in their communities and wider society.

NCS is managed and supported by NCS Trust, our central team who are constantly working to make sure that NCS delivers impactful experiences to as many young people as possible. NCS is funded by the UK Government through the Department for Culture, Media and Sport as a core part of the National Youth Guarantee.

For more information, please contact the NCS Press Office – email or call them on 020 3920 8576.


About the Social Biobehavioural Research Group at University College London (SBB-UCL)

The Social Biobehavioural Research Group at UCL investigates how social connections and behaviours impact people’s health. By conducting cutting-edge, cross disciplinary research, our aim is to determine how our health is influenced by both social ‘assets’ and ‘deficits’. These include social relationships, arts and culture, leisure, nature, and social prescribing (assets), as well as loneliness, isolation, and social restrictions (deficits).

We investigate how these factors affect individual and population health, the underlying ingredients and mechanisms, and how these effects vary across society. This then advances understanding of how policies and practice might evolve to improve population health.

Website: Youth sector Enabling Social prescribing – SBRG
Twitter/X: @UCL_SBB
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For media and communications enquiries, please contact:
Dr Daniel Hayes:

About StreetGames and the Social Prescribing Youth Network (SPYN)

StreetGames is one of the UK’s leading ‘sport for development’ charities – changing lives and transforming communities through the power of sport. StreetGames founded the Social Prescribing Youth Network (SPYN) with the ambition that every Primary Care Network in England should have at least one Link Worker dedicated to working with children and young people.

The network continues to grow and now has over 1000 members, including Link Workers, voluntary and community organisations, social prescribing coordinators, commissioners, funders, GPs, youth workers, police officers, teachers and researchers.

Website: Homepage – StreetGames
To download the CYP Social Prescribing Toolkit New toolkit offers fresh approach to children’s social prescribing – StreetGames