A SOUTHAMPTON-based community project has received more than £100k to help improve mental health and confidence in children.

The Patient Empowerment, Self-Esteem, Employability, and Resilience (PEEER) project has received over £100,000 of National Lottery funding to improve the mental wellbeing and increase the self-esteem and confidence of children and young people living with chronic kidney conditions and other long-term health issues.

The project, which is run almost entirely by volunteers, aims to empower young people living with chronic renal conditions, as well as their families, to learn more about their illness, develop support networks, co-produce digital resource packs and boost employment opportunities.

The project was set-up by Arvind Nagra, Consultant Paediatric Nephrologist at Southampton Children’s Hospital, to counter the social isolation, anxiety and low self-esteem faced by children and young people with chronic illnesses.

Arvind said: “We are very grateful for this National Lottery funding as it means we will be able to arrange more opportunities for young people to boost their self-esteem, achieve their goals and gain valuable qualifications.

"The local support we have received so far has been staggering, and we would love to hear from any more community organisations who can help us to improve the lives of children and young people with long-term health issues and their families.”

According to research, 31 per cent of young people with kidney failure on renal replacement therapy have mental health issues compared to 15 per cent of the general population.

A collection of local organisations are involved with the project, including the Forestry Commission in Hampshire, which is providing accredited forestry volunteering sessions for young people to help them learn new skills, socialise and increase employment opportunities.

The University of Southampton computer gaming department is also taking part in the PEEER project, working with children and young people to co-produce an interactive game that will help the whole family to better understand their conditions, self-manage their symptoms and have fun whilst doing it.

Matt York, Funding Manager at The National Lottery Community Fund, said: “We are delighted to support the incredible work of the PEEER project, which is bringing community organisations together to improve the lives of young people with chronic health conditions.

"By providing education, accreditation, mentoring and volunteering opportunities, the PEEER project is improving the life prospects of young patients, offering vital networking and socialising opportunities and helping the local community to thrive.”