Several areas commented on the challenges associated with engaging with young people themselves, as well as their parents and carers, particularly during the Covid-19 response period. Some (e.g. Enfield , City & Hackney and Greenwich) reported involvement of parents/carers and CYP through focus groups, surveys and regular feedback monitoring. In Tower Hamlets, a young person ambassador group has been established to ensure the voices of young people are being considered in the development of the MHST. In addition, they are developing a peer-led program which will allow young people to share and disseminate resources and signpost amongst their peers. Tower Hamlets are also planning to set up a parent ambassador group. Hounslow has commissioned a charity to identify gaps in user/family engagement to inform future working.
Barnet has plans for a designated engagement officer role to improve coproduction and engagement efforts. Camden has appointed a service user and community champion to ensure more user engagement and Lewisham has a named participation lead for the MHST. Camden are considering a name change of their team on the basis of anecdotal feedback from parents and staff in schools who have expressed concern the title of the team could be a barrier for some wishing to engage related to stigma around mental health. More detailed feedback from a greater range of school staff, pupils and parents will be sought.
Co-production was a strong theme that emerged from examination of the MHST returns. In Barnet, a virtual coproduction event was held during lockdown with representation from education settings and parent/carers to help inform the approach to returning to schools. Coproduction in relation to engagement activities was also present in Lewisham. Families in Hounslow were consulted for feedback and recommendations during the development of COVID resources for schools, CYP and families.
Student surveys have been used to information the design of services in some areas (eg. Camden, Enfield). Bromley have used a feedback survey to all schools to further inform their offer and to gain young people’s feedback on what they may need. Furthermore, in Bromley all CYP and parents using the service are invited to complete a survey to provide feedback on the service they have received, which informs the services provided. They ask for feedback on a rated scale at the end of workshops and targeted groups whether delivered virtually or face to face and these are recorded to refine and develop workshops. Bromley’s Young Leaders Group review all workshops and the website to ensure the “child’s voice” within their work. This group also receives details of the data and feedback to ensure action is taken (if required), providing direct feedback to Trustees.
The use of newsletters as a tool for engagement with children and young people and their families was reported in Ealing, Tower Hamlets and Islington. Working with local authorities to improve engagement was also reported by Islington, which has used the council’s website to improve access to information for parents as well as a logo competition for young people to encourage engagement and try to help ensure resources are appealing to CYP.
In Hounslow, CYP representatives have continued to sit and play an active part on the vast majority of MHST recruitment panels in the last 3 quarters.
In SWL, the CCG PPE engagement leads are working with the clusters on how best to engage with CYP and their parents and carers.
Haringey CAMHS is consulting CYP and families about their experiences of services to form groups and stakeholder events to coproduce improved needs-led pathways. This will lead to greater CYP representation in future.
In West London and Hammersmith & Fulham a youth participation worker has been developing a CYP/parent/carer user group which, once established will actively feed into the future shaping and development of the MHST. In Hammersmith & Fulham users are asked to express their level of satisfaction, for example through the Chi-ESQ questionnaire.
Difficulties in engaging with all schools within the local authority was reported in the 2018 report. Pressures on staff time and maintaining skills and knowledge were also highlighted.
Ideally, all schools involved in MHST work would be engaged with the programme, and would link in with mental health leads, and this engagement would inform the support offer. Patchy levels of engagement with schools were reported in some areas, however (eg. Tower Hamlets), and some tension has been reported between MHSTs and schools in relation to what the EMHPs can deliver.
In terms of contact between teams and schools, some areas report good access, such as in Ealing where there is direct contact with nominated supervisor/project managers and schools. In other areas, such as Haringey, regular meetings with MH leads take place. In Barnet all education settings complete a needs assessment as part of the initial introduction of MHSTs to the school/college. Barnet’s communication and engagement plan outlines the means through which they communicate with stakeholders including the education settings. Examples include school circular, newsletter, social media account, regular contact and virtual/face-to-face meetings with Senior Mental Health Leads, encouraging education settings to liaise with their respective representatives and vice versa.
Newsletters are used in Tower Hamlets, Islington, Ealing and SWL to engage and keep all groups informed. Forums for staff (and carer) engagements take place in Tower Hamlets. Hounslow has developed an MHST Newsletter with updates for schools both during the lockdown and post- lockdown, regarding the current offers of support for schools/staff, young people and parents.
Hounslow holds a quarterly MHST schools engagement event and is considering moving this to an online forum. West London and Hammersmith & Fulham both provide weekly updates to Designated Mental Health Leads. Hounslow also holds weekly video meetings between practitioners and schools for staff to discuss cases and give feedback on current challenges with online working, mental health themes in the schools and what the school would find most helpful. This enables practitioners to collate feedback and alter/design interventions as indicated. This information is fed back every half term, reviewed by the management team and used to inform service delivery.
Camden are working towards a model whereby a CAMHS school clinician linked to the school attends their initial meetings per term. In Islington schools’ named practitioners have kept in regular contact with their school links (including link CAMHS in schools clinicians) and they have established a schools MH leads network facilitated by the educational psychologists (Eps) in the team. Islington held a network event for all schools (particularly training schools) to collect their views.
In Haringey every school has a termly partnership review meeting led by the MHSTs and EPs to support the whole school approach and support for the Senior Mental Health Lead / Emotional Wellbeing Lead in the school. These review meetings include engagement around the needs of the school and adapting delivery models in the context of the Covid-19 period and during the re-opening period.
Haringey has also developed and shared a ‘Teacher Local Guide’ for the Trailblazer partnerships. This 48-page handbook provides a comprehensive MHST reference for education settings and each school has a main contact within the MHST. MHSTs are in regular contact with the emotional wellbeing lead. In addition, regular review meetings are held to include other Trailblazer Partners.
Islington has developed a website for school staff with key service information.
Involvement of partner organisations to support MHST services has been reported. Haringey has involved many new partners, leading to a range of resources being developed and school support offers made throughout the last year. Other examples include Tower Hamlets, which works with Safe East to make a 3-session programme available to children and young people, as well as the Tower Hamlets Education Wellbeing Service. In Lewisham, the Mental Health and Wellbeing Hub has been involved with engagement work on the response to Covid-19.