Introduction to this Emerging Minds funded project by the Lead Researcher, Dr Jonathan Parker, University of Exeter:
Commissioned in 2017, the Wellbeing Practitioner for Children and Young People (CWP) programme provides evidenced-based early intervention for anxiety, low mood and behavioural difficulties. The CWP role has not been commissioned as a new, stand-alone service, but has been integrated into existing locality-based provision and is intended to improve outcomes and reduce the requirement for future, more costly specialist interventions. The CWP programme has represented a new workforce initiative and has provided an exciting opportunity to evaluate the impact of these trailblazing roles.
In the South West of England, the University of Exeter (CEDAR) is conducting an ongoing evaluation that has demonstrated encouraging outcomes for children, young people and families, with outcome data indicating that reliable improvement is achieved across a range of measures for over 60% of young people completing a course of support with a CWP.
Building on the success of the CWP programme, the primary objective of this project is to develop our understanding of what have been the key contributing factors in the effective implementation of this evidence-based provision into children and young peoples mental health services. Through collaborative engagement with a range of professionals, providers, children, young people and their families, the project aims to conduct wide ranging qualitative study in support of developing our understanding of the real-world factors that have supported the successful application of the CWP programme. Following analysis of this information, the project will then aim to co-develop a range of resources aimed at supporting effective implementation of the CWP programme and wider evidenced based practice roles.
Our primary outputs from the study will be:
1. A freely available CWP workforce implementation toolkit for services to use to develop their individualised implementation plan
2. Access to freely available CWP and evidence-based practice training resources for services to use to support staff training, and to promote an understanding of evidence-based low intensity psychological interventions in their services.
3. Integration of the tool and guidance in to relevant clinical training programmes and virtual workshops delivered by the CEDAR team to support providers across the UK to use the workforce implementation toolkit and to develop their individualised implementation and evaluation plan.
Following the project’s end, Professor Jonathan Parker shared the key messages behind the research findings.
Understanding aspects conducive to successful implementation of a new CYP MH workforce can provide insights and adaptions required to support all staff within a service. As a result, services have supported the aspiration to understand these key contributing factors in CWP implementation, impact, and sustainability.
Initial findings are underlining the importance of progressive and motivated leadership that is adaptive to the changing landscape of mental health support. Valuing all professions, irrespective of seniority, promotes respect and passion for the service, which was evident in comments from staff.
Having a comprehensive understanding of the low-intensity remit was a regular theme in the data. Individuals in leadership or supervisory positions were especially valued if they had undertaken the CWP training programme. This supports the importance of role progression to retain staff as they progress in their career. Furthermore, ‘practicing what you preach’ by proving wellbeing check-ins to professionals was viewed as a valued health and wellbeing support for staff as they continue to support others.
Promoting a positive mental health atmosphere was reflected in responses from professionals and young people. Young people could access timely interventions, meeting a key priority of the CWP policy. Young people felt that they had ownership over their mental health support and generated meaningful goals to work on.
Young people felt the awareness of mental health services could be improved, which is especially important given the increase in CYP self-referring for mental health support since the pandemic. However, CYP stated onward signposting once in the system was meeting their needs.