Trailblazing new Mental Health Support pilot being rolled out in Hertfordshire schools

Published: 14 Feb 2019

Thousands of children and young people in Hertfordshire are set to benefit from vital early specialist mental health intervention as part of a national pilot.

In November the government appointed Hertfordshire as one of just 25 areas to launch Mental Health Support Teams (MHSTs) – a key initiative to meet the increasing number of children and young people seeking support for mental health issues.

Two Hertfordshire schools are now set up as hubs for the teams, with a western hub based at St Albans Girls’ School and an eastern hub at Rivers Education Support Centre in Hoddesdon, providing accommodation for meetings, supervision and administration.

Each of the two MHSTs will support between 10 and 20 schools with a population of around 8,000 pupils, working in conjunction with a designated mental health lead in each school. Eight new workers are currently being trained in evidence-based interventions and other members of the team are being recruited. These teams will be fully operational from December 2019.

Welcoming the launch of the MHSTs, Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families, Teresa Heritage said: “We are delighted that Hertfordshire’s trailblazing pilot is now being rolled out to support 16,000 children and young people in our schools and educational settings.

“The Mental Health Support Teams are going to make a huge difference to our schools, their pupils, and our mental health services which are currently in high demand. We are grateful to the schools acting as hubs for the mental health teams and helping to facilitate this much-needed service for so many Hertfordshire pupils.

“This much-needed resource will help transform Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) services through a range of educational settings across the county, helping to reduce waiting times for young people and their families in accessing specialist and life-changing services.”

Staff will benefit from tailored training and consultation, while pupils and parents will be able to access evidence-based interventions for mild to moderate mental health issues, with the aim that early intervention will prevent needs from escalating.

Welcoming the initiative, Deputy Headteacher of St Albans Girls’ School, Karen Thomas said: “The new Mental Health Support Teams will be an invaluable resource for local schools. The increased collaborative working and improved communication between educational and health professionals will be of particular benefit to students.

“The holistic nature of the teams, including support workers and clinicians will mean that the necessary intervention for the whole family can be accessed. This trailblazer represents really important strides in getting the desperately-needed additional support for well-being and mental health directly to young people.”

The MHSTs fit with the priorities identified in the Hertfordshire CAMHS Transformation Plan.  This five year plan aims to deliver system-wide change in collaboration with the two NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) - East and North Hertfordshire and Herts Valleys CCGs, Hertfordshire County Council and the providers supporting Hertfordshire children and young people including schools.

Hertfordshire was selected by a panel of NHS England experts because of its comprehensive plan to test models across a range of settings, supported by its robust School CAMHS Link programme. This provides training and resources to school-based mental health leaders.

Deborah Sheppard, Senior Commissioning Manager for CAMHS, Integrated Health and Care Commissioning Team said: “Developing mental health support in schools so that young people have easy access to help is a key priority in Hertfordshire’s CAMHS transformation plan.

“The MHSTs will provide early help to pupils, support school staff and ensure children and young people with more severe needs access the right support by providing a link to specialist NHS services.”

Dr Geraldine O’Sullivan, Hertfordshire and West Essex Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) clinical lead for mental health said: “This initiative will make a huge difference to the lives of children and young people across Hertfordshire.

“It will further improve links between mental health services and schools to ensure children, parents and teachers know where they can get support and help for young people with mental health concerns.”

The two teams of support workers could include youth workers as well as mental health practitioners, providing evidence-based support in community venues, not just schools. There are also plans to roll-out parent education programmes.

The two MHSTs would work across the range of educational settings including special needs schools, Education Support Centres (ESCs) and Further Education (FE) colleges, and test how teams can work with other services and build on the wider transformation of mental health care for children and young people.

Workers will be employed by Hertfordshire mental health services provider Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (HPFT), once they complete their training later this year.