What is the Link Programme?

The Link Programme is a national initiative funded by the Department for Education, supported by NHS England and led by the Anna Freud Centre. It will reach every school and college in England over the next four years, identifying children and young people’s needs at an early stage and equipping professionals to support them so that more children and young people get the help and support they need, when they need it.

The Link Programme will be coordinated at a local level by Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs). CCGs are responsible for commissioning health services to meet the needs of the local population. They are elected bodies and are run by GP practices.

Link Programme in action: how Salford CCG successfully implemented the programme in their area

Their involvement means that schools and colleges can use their knowledge and experience to influence future service development to meet children and young people’s mental health needs.

More about the Link Programme

What is its aim?

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

We know that 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 children’s mental health problems. However, they also tell us they are not always sure how to respond to them.

The Link Programme is designed to support staff to spot when young people need help and to signpost them to specialist services, saving staff time and giving children more effective support.     

How does it work?

The Link Programme brings together schools, colleges and mental health services under their local Clinical Commisioning Groups (CCGs).

The programme has been reconfigured for online delivery and it now consists of online modules and two online workshops led by the Anna Freud Centre. 

Online modules will be made available to attendees two weeks in advance of their first workshop. In order to make the most out of the programme, attendees are required to complete a series of small tasks prior to the workshops.

How do we know it works?

The Link Programme has been four years in development and has been independently evaluated. The pilot successfully ran in 255 schools from 2015-2016. The Link 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).

The independent evaluation found that The Link Programme:

  • Strengthened communication and joint-working between schools and NHS children and young people’s mental health services.
  • Increased satisfaction with working relationships.
  • Improved understanding of mental health services and referral routes.
  • Improved knowledge and awareness of mental health issues among school lead contacts.
  • Improved timeliness and appropriateness of referrals.
How much does it cost?

The training is funded by the Department of Education and is free to all 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. Please do not contact the Anna Freud Centre as we will not be able to respond to emails from every school and college in England.


We have created a range of resources in September 2019 which will give you all the information about the programme you need including our animation introducing the Link Programme.

Below you will find more detail about the programme including:

  • An independent evaluation of the successful pilot of the Link Programme involving almost 1,000 education and mental health professionals across 27 CCGs. The findings showed significant improvements in joint working between schools and children and young people's mental health services
  • Mental Health Services and Schools Link Pilot: workshop findings and feedback. This includes an internal review of the Link Programme
  • A guide to the CASCADE Framework, which is used in workshops to help partners work together
  • Putting the CASCADE Framework into Practice, which gives examples from three of the areas which have taken part
  • Mental Health Services and Schools and Colleges Link Programme 2017-19: Final report to the Department for Education. The report we submitted to the DfE following completion of phase 2 of the programme.

These documents (from September 2019) should provide you all you need to know about the Link Programme. Once you have signed up to the programme we will send you a toolkit which outlines in detail how to recruit for and run the workshops.

We will support you throughout the Link Programme. If you have any other questions, please get in touch with us at


Back to The Link Programme Back to Our Work With Schools

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