We recently held our latest ‘sharing and learning’ webinar for providers of mental health and wellbeing support in education settings. Our guest speaker was Helen McGlinchey, Northpoint Wellbeing’s Head of Service and Clinical Lead for the schools service. We spoke with Helen to discuss best practises for providing great mental health support in schools for children and young people.
Helen has senior operational and strategic responsibility for the school services in Leeds, Doncaster and Harrogate. Northpoint has been a provider of therapeutic support in schools for 14 years. The service started in Leeds and more recently expanded to other areas of Yorkshire.
If you’d like to hear from services about their experience of working in schools, join us at our next webinar for Mental Health Support Teams (MHSTs) on February 15th 2022.
Northpoint Wellbeing is a charity and an NHS commissioned provider of mental health and emotional wellbeing support to children, young people and adults across the Yorkshire region. Their main services for children and young people are Calderdale Open Minds, two Mental Health Support Teams (MHSTs) in Calderdale and the Leeds Schools Service, known as Leeds Mindmate Wellbeing, which Helen oversees.
Read on to learn Helen’s top tips for establishing successful and effective mental health and wellbeing support for children and young people in education settings:
1. Build great relationships with key members of staff in schools
A key element for Northpoint Wellbeing services has always been building relationships. More specifically, establishing those relationships with key staff members within schools. I think that’s always been a very strong ethos for us. Those staff members are likely to be Heads of Service, Pastoral Leads, Designated Safeguarding Leads and key staff on reception.
We’ve always found that schools provide such a helpful overview of those children, young people and families who need mental health support. So building relationships with the schools is absolutely key.
2. Establish a clear service model and clear referral pathways
We work in a multi-agency way, which I think is really fundamental to our service offer. We have clear frameworks and procedures to support the service offer, but also understand that we can’t stand still either. We need to be able to adapt to changing circumstances.
Over the years, we’ve really developed our service model to respond to the needs of the children and young people. We know that school staff are under more pressure than ever to respond to the mental health and emotional wellbeing needs of their pupils. So we’ve really developed and diversified our service model as we’ve gone along.
In terms of referral pathways, either the school will identify the mental health or emotional wellbeing of that child or young person, or the young person or parent may approach the school themselves. We would then have a multi-agency meeting. Following that, if it’s deemed that therapeutic support would be the most helpful option, the referral would come into our service from there.
3. Ensure good communication between services
It’s important to be able to direct children, young people and their families to the right kind of mental health support in schools. Therefore communication between services is key.
For example, if we receive a referral that we know is on a waiting list for a specialist NHS mental health team, we would link up with the duty clinicians in the team. It may then be agreed, between the services, that a bridging offer of support can be offered through our service, while the child or young person is waiting to be assessed by the specialist team.
Things are a lot more joined up which I think is really helpful for children, young people and families, but also for the schools as well. We communicate all of this to the schools so that they’re aware of when there’s a need for support, what support is in place for that child or young person and the therapeutic offer.
4. Develop and diversify your service offer
Continuing to develop and diversify your service offer is key to delivering effective support to children and young people.
Being able to support children, young people and their families, is at the core of everything we do. It is so important for services to consider the different ways in which they can engage with children and young people in education settings. Services need to be able to meet rising demands and to respond to children and young people’s needs in the best way possible.
Our team at Northpoint Wellbeing had to adjust so quickly at the start of the pandemic. There has been a real escalation in terms of clinical risk and in terms of safeguarding concerns. Anxiety has always been the most prevalent issue for us, but that has really escalated as well. So responding to that demand as a service is also key. We do that through the service model, really working towards early intervention and being able to offer that initial support at the earliest point possible.
When the pandemic hit, we needed to adapt in terms of how we could continue our offer of support in schools. We provided additional training to our team to help them transition into working with remote platforms. We were able to look at how we could work creatively through those platforms. This meant that we didn’t have a gap in service, which was really key for the schools and key for those children, young people and their families as well.
5. Establish robust policies and procedures
Having really robust and clear policies and procedures in place is fundamental for our therapists to offer great mental health support in schools. Especially in response to safeguarding and clinical risk.
Our services provide early intervention, but that certainly doesn’t mean we don’t receive complex referrals. Having a clear framework and a really robust set of clinical policies and procedures is key to supporting the service model, the team and the offer to children and young people.
6. Embed a patient management system that supports data reporting
For the Leeds Mindmate Wellbeing contract we had to go through a procurement process with our local NHS commissioners. One of the key elements of that was using a patient management system that could reflect our service offer and pathways. It was also key that we could collate the data and successfully flow it to the Mental Health Services Data Set (MHSDS) as part of the reporting expectation for that contract.
We started working with Mayden and their iaptus CYP software. We were confident that it would be a successful system for us to use as a NHS commissioned provider. So when we were selected as one of the providers for the Mindmate contract, we used iaptus CYP from that point onwards as a service and as a team.
It was a real shift. Prior to that, within the clusters and schools, a lot of people were still using paper records. They were also using some electronic systems but nothing of the scale or nature of a patient management system. It has really helped us as a service in terms of having everything in one place, with data protection and being able to develop our care pathways to really suit our service.
The key was to successfully submit that data for national NHS reporting. We have on average about 4,500 and 5000 data submissions per month. We rarely have any rejections from our monthly submissions, and if we do receive any, we work closely with Mayden to iron those out. It’s been a significant transition for us but a really good one.