Children and young people to work with staff from the NHS, councils, police and schools to improve mental health services

A new programme that involves children and professionals is being rolled out across the South of England in a drive to improve children’s mental health services.

It’s anticipated that around 6,000 members of staff working in the NHS, police, schools, and local authority children’s services will take part in the programme over the next 12 months.

Importantly, children and young people will also take part, as part of an approach known as restorative practice which brings different groups of people together. They will work with the professionals to continue to improve, or in some cases re-design children’s mental health services across the South of England.

Andrea King, Local Authority Advisor at NHS England (South East) and project lead said: “This new programme is about shifting the way we work and making sure that when we look at designing children’s mental health services we involve everyone – including the children and young people who use the services.

“We currently have more than 500 children signed up to work with us as co-designers to improve children and mental health services alongside 300 senior leaders from local authorities, Clinical Commissioning Groups, the police and schools. We can’t wait to get started in the coming weeks.”

Designed as a way to bring different parties to work together, the restorative approach is based on research carried out it New Zealand and has been imported to the UK with great success. It is thought to be the first time that it is being deployed at such a scale in England.

Sally Rickard, Deputy Director Clinical Networks and Senate, NHS England (South East) said: “The restorative approach has proven to be highly successful in the past and is already being used nationally to tackle other issues. We believe it has great potential to improve children’s mental health which has been set as one of the priorities in the NHS Long Term Plan. This collaborative approach to work can bring us together and make tremendous improvements in the way we help our younger population.”

Alison Jeffrey, Director of Children’s Services at Portsmouth City Council said: “Portsmouth Children’s Trust has been on a significant journey to embed restorative practice across the children’s system in the city.  This programme is both incredibly helpful and timely in taking our work to the next level in terms of continuing to translate restorative approaches into a wide range of organisational contexts to further drive system integration for the benefit of children and families.”

The programme will run in Southampton, Portsmouth, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Medway, Oxfordshire, Windsor & Maidenhead, Slough, Reading, Wokingham and West Berkshire – as well as Gloucestershire in the South West – with the potential to extend into other areas in the South of England. It is supported by Health Education England.