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SILC initiative opens its doors to people in Launceston

As mental health problems become an increasing concern for communities here in Cornwall, it was a breath of fresh air to meet a fantastic team of people addressing these issues directly in Launceston.

On Monday, 18th October, Step into Learning launched SILC, a new initiative to provide 700 hours of free counselling services to people in Launceston who are struggling with anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. The team held an open event at their offices on Western Road to launch this fantastic project, attended by Mayor Leighton Penhale and two members of the new counselling service team, Nadine Newman and Natalie Merritt, who have been training for four years to become qualified counsellors.

Launceston Life caught up with Step into Learning CEO Stephen Howard who explained how SILC is hoped to benefit local people who may be struggling.

“Launceston has challenging mental health problems such as anxiety,” he said. “SILC is a way of addressing this by offering 700 free hours of counselling to those who need it.”

As part of this new service, Step into Learning has employed a counselling coordinator and two counselling supervisors to ensure ethical practice is upheld and both counsellors and clients are safeguarded. They are now registered members of the BACP, ensuring that the counselling service can provide the best level of support to clients.

As part of a counsellor’s four years of training, they are required to complete 100 hours of clinical practice, which is why the 700 hours of free counselling sessions have been made available through SILC.

Stephen explained why SILC will help bring more counsellors into practice, as well as benefiting local people: “There is a continual number of trainees that are theoretically qualified, but haven’t been able to complete their 100 hours because of Covid. SILC enables a number of our trainees to come on board and do their 100 hours of practice.

“The coordinator and the supervisors make sure our counsellors have the right skillset for each client, for example, issues such as anxiety and relationship problems.”

SILC service will continue year-on-year, with the hope it may address the desperate need for affordable counsellors in the local area.

“The waiting list to see someone is just horrendous,” Stephen said. “We’ve made the sessions free because we felt it removed another barrier to enable people to get help.”

The service will be available to people aged 15 and over, providing support to the youth of our community as well as everyone else.

Stephen continued. “I’m so glad Launceston Town Council has got behind the initiative, it’s a very positive thing.”

Natalie Merritt, counsellor; Mayor Leighton Penhale; Nadine Newton, counsellor; Stephen Howard, CEO of Step into Learning.

Mayor Leighton Penhale, who cut the ribbon to officially launch SILC, said: “As a town, as a community, we appreciate establishments like this, training people to listen. It’s so vitally important that when you’re not feeling one hundred percent, that there are people who will actually listen and people who actually care about your situation. If there are people who are trained to know how to listen and how to respond to people that are suffering from anxiety and all sorts of stress that we see so much more of in life today, then that’s a wonderful thing.”

Counsellors Nadine and Natalie were also on-hand to explain more about their work and how they got involved. The pair completed their counselling qualifications at Step Into Learning but when the pandemic began, they and many other trainee counsellors were stuck when it came to finding a placement.

Natalie said: “Because of Covid, there has been such a lack of placements, but when the opportunity with SILC came up I was really glad. There’s so many more people that need counselling since the beginning of the pandemic.”

Stephen added: “We’ve got a lot of free hours to give, and this is not only face-to-face - we can do sessions on Zoom too. We’ve made it as flexible as we can.”

If you or someone you know would benefit from counselling, simply contact SILC by email or phone - or 01566 770729. There will be a 45-minute assessment with the counselling coordinator, who will determine whether counselling with SILC is the best option for you.

For more information about SILC, go to


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