The Link Programme in action: Spotlight on Salford

What prompted your interest in the Link Programme?

Mental health services in Salford were under considerable strain and teachers felt they were not getting the support they needed in helping children and young people with emotional and mental health issues.

Some of the challenges centred around:
• Inability to make direct referrals
• Lack of transparency between Children and Young People’s Mental Health Services (CYPMHS) and teachers regarding a child’s progress, discharge plans and concerns
• Absence of clarity regarding roles and expectations, worsened by poor communication channels
• Teachers feeling their views as educators not appreciated within CYPMHS systems

The Link Programme, led by the Anna Freud Centre, was seen by the Salford Clinical Commissioning Group as a potential solution to these challenges.

How has the programme improved joint working in your area?

The programme has developed to meet the needs of the local education system within a dynamic and forward-thinking landscape. As well as offering a support platform, it links to both local and wider Greater Manchester stakeholders to ensure it’s developing as an integral part of the CYPMHS.
The relationship between CYPMHS and schools is going from strength to strength, despite professional differences and competing agendas. A dedicated School Link Practitioner post has enabled the joint working platform to be embedded across the Salford area, building on the good practice that has already been established.

What actions are you taking as a result?

The Link Programme provided an excellent platform for CYPMHS to be better represented in the community, especially within education forums. The benefits are twofold: an opportunity for CYPMHS to have a proactive interface with community groups, and a chance for these groups to have a greater insight into the role and scope of CYPMHS.

Mental health services noted that referrals are now of a much higher quality than those from other professionals who have not attended Link Programme workshops, leading to a more efficient and proactive referral system.

School leads felt the support they received via the Link Programme was very helpful. They highlighted the increased honesty and mutual respect for each other’s roles, underlined by a greater sense of transparency and clear communication channels.

After attending the workshops, school leads felt more confident in
supporting children and young people, as the programme boosted their
faith in the referral process.

As noted by a Mental Health School Lead for a primary school in Salford:
“I now feel that education and CYPMHS have a working relationship, where before there was none. I cannot express how much we value the advice we have received from the Link Programme.”

NHS CYPMHS School Lead, Jane Davies, feels the Link Programme has made a massive difference, explaining:
“It has enabled us to create a network of teachers, local authorities and CYPMHS professionals built on trust and expertise, and parents are now confident that we all know each other and are working closely to help their children and families.”

Emily Edwards, Senior Integrated Commissioning Manager for Salford CCG, highlighted the programme’s sustainability:
“We have really strong foundations in place now. We believe we are well placed to deliver on the Government’s aspirations for a dedicated mental health support team in our city.”

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