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Investing in improved mental wellbeing for children and young people

16 November 2018

Representatives from the Department of Health and Social Care, children and young people charities, NHS trusts, local authorities, universities, NHS England, child and adult mental health services and royal colleges gathered in London this week to celebrate and learn from a range of community projects aimed at improving the quality of care for children and young people experiencing, or at risk of, mental illness.

The children and young people’s education and training fund celebration event was organised by Health Education England (HEE) as part of its work to enhance the skills of healthcare staff and others and improve the quality of mental health care for young people.

Last year, HEE invested £2.9 million in 26 local and national projects to help benefit vulnerable children and young people as part of an education and training fund. This funding included a commitment to sustainability and sharing the learning generated by these projects.

Hertfordshire County Council’s Youth Service and volunteer youth peer support workers shared their work alongside hospital clinicians to support young people and their families on admission to A&E. Hartlepool Borough Council’s Educational Psychology team presented about their work in schools, upskilling staff and parents to better support mental health and wellbeing of identified vulnerable children and young people. YoungMinds described their work to raise awareness of the impact of adverse childhood experiences and promote trauma informed care for children and young people with staff across education, social care and the health sector.

Further learning was shared via workshops and stalls hosted by Centrepoint Soho, St Michael’s Fellowship, The Children’s Sleep Charity, Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, School Development Support Agency, Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust and MAC-UK. 

Frances Oram, Director for Mental Health, Dementia and Disabilities at Department of Health abd Social Care, was present throughout and closed the event, echoing the value of cross-sector partnerships to provide early support for mental health concerns in children and young people and stem escalation in the transition to adulthood.

Professor Lisa Bayliss-Pratt, Chief Nurse and Interim Regional Director for London at HEE said:

It was inspiring to hear from so many organisations working with partners and stakeholders in their areas to deliver improved care for young people.

“The projects and initiatives outlined today have the potential to transform young lives and charities, local authorities along with NHS organisations should be encouraged to find out more and discover whether there are applications they can adopt in their communities.”

Young Minds

As part of its Addressing Adversity project YoungMinds aimed to raise awareness of childhood trauma and adversity on children and young people’s mental health. By running three nationwide conferences, followed by training in each locality, YoungMinds worked to build capacity and skills within frontline staff to improve the support young people faced with trauma and adversity receive. YoungMinds simultaneously published the Addressing Adversity book, which outlined six principles for trauma informed care, with the aim to support commissioners to make services more trauma aware.

Hartlepool Educational Psychology Team and Hartlepool Borough Council

The up-skilling of school staff to be better equipped to support children and young people’s emotional wellbeing was achieved through our ‘3 C Approach’. A team of highly skilled Assistant Psychologists were recruited to coach 30 school staff in the delivery of 11 evidence-based intervention programmes to 350 children and their parents as part of a graduated response to emotional wellbeing. Coaching followed a competency-based model (Miller, 1990) which resulted in staff reporting increased confidence and competence in understanding mental health and delivering appropriate support. Consequently, a positive impact on children’s wellbeing was reported by children, parents and teachers.

Hertfordshire County Council Youth Service

The Empathy Project, run by Hertfordshire County Council’s youth service (YC Hertfordshire) combines the best of teen peer-to-peer support and youth work to provide valuable emotional support and signposting for young people attending emergency care. This independently-evaluated initiative has been shown to significantly improve the hospital experience for patients, relieve pressure on hospital staff, boost the commitment of A&E Departments to prioritise mental health and bridge gaps between A&E and specialist mental health. Success has been underpinned by Youth Volunteers working alongside Youth Workers with specialist skills and experience in developing young people and extensive knowledge of local services.

Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families

HEE funding supported a joint bid by the Adaptive Mentalisation-Based Integrative Treatment (AMBIT) programme from the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families and Manchester City Council to develop and deliver an innovative training to support workers in children’s residential homes and support some of the most vulnerable young people in the country whose outcomes require concerted efforts by all professionals.

The AMBIT programme has been built up over the last decade through repeatedly training teams, learning from each training to adapt and improve what is delivered. Initially used by outreach adolescent mental health or ‘edge of care’ services, it is now deployed in many settings and with different populations. This was a structured attempt to adapt this team-based approach to caring for very vulnerable and often challenging children and young people who are in the residential care system. The programme was well received, and there is enthusiasm to carry its learning forwards into a self-sustaining training hub based around Manchester.

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust

This 14-day course enabled senior managers and clinicians to broaden their systemic supervision skills in ways that led to grass-roots changes within their own agency contexts. The training experience provided, enabled candidates to let go of their initial certainty about what constitutes ‘good supervision’ and adopt other approaches that they hadn’t previously tried. This particular training programme helped develop the skills of the multi-agency workforce currently working with vulnerable children across Norfolk and Suffolk. Candidates left the course feeling more confident and in a better position to promote good mental health and wellbeing within their staff teams, thereby vicariously impacting positively on the health of the children themselves.

School Development Support Agency

The Leading a Mentally Healthy School (LaMHS) project was led by the School Development Support Agency (SDSA). The project created a leadership training programme to help schools establish the ethos, facilities, culture and partnerships that promote pupil and staff well-being. A project expert group developed the materials and, following successful trials, the programme has been rolled-out nationally. The SDSA worked in partnership with the Teaching School Council to identify a network of 30 Hub Teaching Schools who have all trained additional Teaching Schools to cover their region. As a result, LaMHS is now being delivered by over 250 Teaching Schools to local schools, and no school in the country is too far from a training provider.

The Children’s Sleep Charity

The Children’s Sleep Charity’s project aim was to support workforce transformation and development in South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw by offering expert training around behavioural sleep issues in order to support improve mental health outcomes for children and young people with extra vulnerabilities. We directly trained 258 practitioners through the project. A specialist workshop around Looked After Children was piloted as well as a specialist parenting programme aimed at supporting families of children with Autism.

St Michael’s Fellowship

Stronger Minds brought together four organisations with a consultant/trainer in South London to develop ways to communicate evidence-based theories and ideas about what enables some people to recover from traumatic events and/or neglectful, abusive childhoods, while others succumb to poor mental and physical health. The activities were devised in workshops with 18 young people and seven Youth Practitioners who co-produced the learning resource pack.

Workshops have been delivered in schools and youth settings to 129 young people and 40 professionals locally and they have made the pack freely available on-line with positive feedback.

For a list of recipients of the award visit the HEE website.

For more information about any of the projects featured here, please email