The Link Programme

For mental health professionals, the Link Programme supports you to reach out across your whole community.

We know that children and young people are best supported when mental health professionals can build partnerships with other colleagues across sectors, including in schools and colleges. It improves communications and joined-up approaches, which prompts timely and appropriate referrals. This is what the Link Programme offers.

As a participant, you will join an online learning platform and two workshops, supported throughout by your CCG and the Anna Freud Centre. Topic examples include understanding the current mental health challenge in the UK, common approaches to measuring and monitoring children’s mental health needs, and how schools and colleges support their pupils. Around 10 hours is spent on the programme across approximately 8 weeks, which previous participants have said is time well spent.

The programme is free, simple to use and evidence-based. We’ve spent the last five years delivering it and we know how to make it work locally, ensuring all stakeholders are engaged and benefit from taking part.

Please watch the video, then read the section below for more information about the programme and how to get involved.

What is the programme’s aim?

The Link Programme has a simple aim: to bring together education and mental health professionals in each local area so that more children and young people can get the help and support they need, when they need it.

Very often, children and young people’s mental health problems first get noticed at school. We know that school and college staff care deeply about pupil wellbeing, but they also tell us they are not always sure how to respond to their needs. The Link Programme supports staff to spot when young people need help and signpost them to specialist services, thereby saving staff time, boosting professional skills and giving children more effective support.     

How is the programme structured?

The Link Programme is designed to bring together schools, colleges and mental health services under their local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to support joint working. In light of the coronavirus pandemic, we have taken the content of two full-day face to face workshops and made the programme available online as a combination of self-study and live, interactive workshops.

Participants access the self-study via a learning platform called Blackboard. You will be sent details of how to access the platform at least two weeks prior to the first live workshop. There are four modules to complete in advance of Workshop 1, which should take around two hours in total:

Module 1- an introduction to the programme and the government’s Green Paper on children and young people’s mental health

Module 2a (for education professionals) - an overview of the mental health challenge in the UK, the factors that influence children and young people's mental health, and the job roles in specialist mental health services

Module 2b (for mental health professionals) - an overview of the mental health challenge in the UK, and job roles in schools and colleges that support children and young people's mental health and wellbeing

Module 3 - an overview of outcome measures, what they are, why they are important, and how to use the measures

Module 4 - a range of resources designed to support children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing

For Module 2, you will be asked to submit some feedback via Blackboard three working days prior to Workshop 1. The first live workshop will last three hours, during which time you will link up with other professionals in local health and education settings, share concerns and build partnerships with them, and use the CASCADE framework to plan services.

There are around six weeks between Workshop 1 and Workshop 2, during which time you will complete another three modules via Blackboard. These will take around two hours in total to complete:

Module 5 - an introduction to the 5P’s of formulation, and a case study exercise which utilises the model

Module 6 - a focus on anxiety, the impact this may have on the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people, and how this may vary (including a case study about a young person experiencing anxiety and how they could be supported)

Module 7 - reflections on the action you have taken since Workshop 1, your successes and the challenges

For Modules 5 and 7, you will be asked to submit some feedback via Blackboard three working days prior to Workshop 2. During this three-hour workshop, you will discuss the content of the modules, progress made since Workshop 1, and plan next steps together.

In total, the programme will require around 10 hours of your time over approximately 8 weeks.

How do we know it works?

The Link Programme has been running for five years, and both the pilot and scaling up phase have been independently evaluated. The pilot phase ran successfully in 255 schools from 2015-2016. The programme was scaled up, with over 3,000 school/college and mental health professionals taking part in 2017-2019. It is now being rolled out to every school and college in England (because it is funded by the Department for Education, it will only run in England).

Two independent evaluations have shown that the Link Programme has:

  • Strengthened communication and joint working between schools and Children and Young People’s Mental Health Services (CYPMHS).
  • Improved awareness and knowledge of risk factors and mental health issues relating to children and young people.
  • Improved understanding of mental health services, referral routes and procedures, and in some cases has resulted in the development of new referral procedures.
  • Enabled action planning and catalysed wider change.
  • Provided a better understanding of evidence-based practice.
What are the benefits of taking part for me and my service?

The Link Programme gives you the opportunity to meet and network with other mental health colleagues and education professionals in your local area.

Children and young people are best supported when mental health staff can build partnerships with other professionals across the whole community, including in the education sector. This improves communications and prompts timely and appropriate referrals, building capacity across the locality.

How much does it cost?

The training is free to all participants, including schools and colleges. 

How do I get involved?

You need to contact your CCG. You can do this by clicking on the map on the landing page and sending them an email. We would encourage you to do this before contacting the Anna Freud Centre.

Evidence and resources

We have created a range of resources which will give you more information on the programme. Below, you will find links to both the external and internal evaluations of the pilot and phase 2 of the programme, as well as information about the CASCADE framework used in the workshops.

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