Off Centre, Hackney

6th March 2020

National: London Borough of Hackney, United Kingdom

Geography type: Urban

Population covered: Hackney has a population of approximately 279,554 (ONS, 2018) and is a relatively young borough with just under 25% of its population under 20 years (ONS, 2017). Hackney was the eleventh most deprived local authority overall in England in the 2015 Index of Multiple Deprivation (Hackney Borough profile, 2019).

The poverty rate is 36%, well above the London average of 27. 5.4% of working age people are unemployed. Hackney has the highest infant mortality rate of any borough by a large margin. It does have good educational outcomes including for disadvantaged pupils, however (Trust for London, 2019). Hackney JSNA (2018) shows the number of children and young people in the Borough is forecast to rise by 7% over the next five years.

Professional group/type of organisation involved e.g. acute, CAMHS, voluntary sector, primary care

Voluntary organisation.

Details of initiative

Off Centre has considerable experience of providing counselling and self-harm work and is seen as a non-stigmatising service which professionals refer to with confidence. It provides several services under one roof including information, outreach, personal support, advice and a counselling and therapy service. A range of counselling is offered, including psychodynamic, humanistic and person-centred, psychotherapy and art, drama and family therapy.

Off Centre worked in collaboration with the Health Authority to establish a ‘fast track’ response to 13 to 17-year-olds who self-harm and are seen at the Homerton Accident and Emergency Department. This was set up to provide more patient choice and to prevent young people being discharged without support after a suicide attempt.

Off Centre’s contribution to the Healthy Schools Initiative has resulted in a joint piece of work with the Samaritans and Hackney schools. The work resulted in accessible information for personal, social, health and economic education lessons on suicide, depression and stress, including making contributions to the curriculum to better inform teachers carrying out the classes.

Type of integration (vertical, horizontal, population)


Outcomes achieved

  • Off Centre is highly regarded and respected in the Borough and has substantial experience of working with young people
  • The service is in constant demand and considered to be very responsive to young people
  • The exchange of ideas has influenced policy and planning and generated a different response to young people’s referrals

Challenges, successes, lessons learned and advice

  • The mixed views of counselling
  • A need for clearer distinctions between counselling, counselling skills, crisis listening skills and mentoring
  • Absence of a specific funding stream for counselling
  • Current initiatives and agendas that do not specifically or adequately focus on young people’s mental health
  • A lack of continuation funding, generating instability in planning services

Cost benefit information

Not provided

Website link

Youth Access Breaking Down the Barriers case studies

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