One of the most important jobs as a Member of Parliament is getting out and about in the constituency, knocking on doors and speaking to constituents on their doorstep. You never know who you are going to meet, or where it might lead.
A chance doorstep conversation with a constituent in Ingatestone a few months ago led to me travelling to Chelmsford on Friday to meet her colleague, Sue Bell, a former drama teacher at now-closed Hedley Walter High School who went on to found and become the Chief Executive of Kids Inspire.
Kids Inspire is a charity working with children and young people recovering from traumatic experiences or dealing with emerging mental health difficulties in Essex. The charity has grown rapidly in the last four years, starting with 25 referrals in its first week to now receiving over 3000 referrals a year.
Finding children who have experienced traumatic events early and helping them cope and deal with what has happened to them is an issue in which I am deeply interested, having been a Director at the Centre for Social Justice and as the current Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Adverse Childhood Experiences. If we don’t identify that trauma and deal with it early on in a young person’s life we are just storing up trouble for later.
Sue Bell’s experience as a teacher taught her to see the gaps in the system and set up Kids Inspire to fill those gaps, rather than duplicating services which are already on offer. Working on the principle a troubled child can be the voice of a struggling family, Sue and a team of 45 therapists provide individual, family and couples therapy for the thousands of families referred to them. They also train teachers in trauma and trauma first aid, and are due to bring their skills to train teachers in Brentwood this term.
I have no doubt Sue’s approach, through Kids Inspire, offers the sort of care and therapy which will change the lives of those families and children forever.