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Anna Freud Centre launches new strategy to co-design support with children’s services leaders

Today, the Anna Freud Centre launches its new clinical offer, Support for children, families and the workforce, to children’s services leaders as part of a new ambitious strategy to help more children, young people and their families in need of emotional and mental health support.

The new offer follows a consultation with children’s services leaders around England carried out by the Centre’s Clinical Director, Andrea King, about how best to support the emotional and mental health of our most vulnerable children and their families by bringing together evidence-informed advice with children’s services expertise. It comes in the wake of the impact of the Covid pandemic, that has resulted in an unprecedented and sustained increase in emotional and mental health referrals by 60%.[i]

As part of the offer, the Centre is inviting leaders in children’s services to co-design help and support for children and their families to create long-term sustainable change.

Our clinical offer: support for children, families and the workforce is part of Closing the Gap, the Centre’s strategy to close the gaps in the mental health support for children and young people in the UK. The offer marks the start of a new long-term relationship, which the Centre aims to build with children’s services in England and beyond. It outlines opportunities to co-design bespoke services, including training and consultancy, and to support staff working with children of all ages and their families, whatever their needs.

Our clinical offer: support for children, families and the workforce comprises five sections of evidence-based interventions and support including:

  • Supporting adolescents which includes specialist training for managers, and training in interpersonal therapy for adults and adolescents.
  • Family trauma which includes our reflective programme for foster carers and parents, reducing parental conflict and providing support for high-conflict families.
  • Early years training offer which focuses on the importance of early care-giving relationships for infant mental health. It includes applying mentalizing in practice, supporting and strengthening early parent-infant relationships, and engaging with and supporting fathers.
  • AMBIT which is a mentalization-based approach for people with multiple needs and for teams who work across a wide range of sectors including, health, social care, justice, education, secure settings and the voluntary sector.
  • Mentalization-based treatment (MBT) for children and young people which looks at workforce development, working with CAMHS on an emotional regulation pathway, and providing MBT for children, adolescents and families.

Andrea King, Director of Clinical Services at the Anna Freud Centre, said: "We are calling on leaders in children’s services to come and work with us to help and support our children, young people and families who are most in need. Even before the pandemic, the demand for children and families’ mental health services was growing. The pandemic has made a complex situation even more challenging, increasing stress across our communities and resulting in deteriorating emotional and mental health affecting babies, toddlers, children, young people and their families.

"As so often is the case, the impact has been greatest on the worst-off: children living in poverty; children experiencing discrimination and exclusion; children living in families who have struggled to care for them or keep them safe; children in care, and children with special educational needs and disabilities. The Anna Freud Centre and children’s services have a shared interest in helping children and families. We can best serve them by pooling our resources, and by sharing expertise and understanding to deliver the services and support which children and their families so desperately need.”

Professor Peter Fonagy, Chief Executive of the Anna Freud Centre said: “Our clinical offer is the start of a major new strategy which will allow us to work together with children’s services on a shared mission to support the most vulnerable children and families. It gives us a chance to develop new partnerships, extend our reach, and co-design and collaborate with children’s services experts around the country to improve the lives of children and their families. This is a remarkable piece of work and is another ambitious step towards our mission to close the gaps in the mental health support of children and young people and it reflects our commitment to tackling social injustice.

For further information read Our clinical offer: support for children, families and the workforces.

[i] NHS Confederation (2021). Reaching the tipping point: children and young people's mental health,