Evidence Based Practice Unit


Research projects

Anna Freud Learning Network

Funder:  Department of Health

Duration: 2016 - 2019

Lead: Kate Dalzell

About: The unit is supporting the development and growth of The Anna Freud Learning Network, a cross-sector community of individuals and organisations who are committed to discovering and sharing the most effective ways to support children and young people's mental health and emotional wellbeing. The network is currently particularly focusing on self-care and treatment endings


Collaborations for Leadership in Applied Health Research & Care (CLAHRCs)

Funder: National Institute for Health Research

Duration: 2015 - 

Lead: Jess Deighton

About: National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Collaborations for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRCs) bring together a collaboration of NHS services and NHS commissioners, universities, other relevant local organisations and the relevant Academic Health Science Network. CLAHRCs conduct applied health research across the NHS, and translate research findings into improved outcomes for patients. The 13 NIHR CLAHRCs primarily focus on research targeted at chronic disease and public health interventions. Within EBPU, we are looking at models of mental health support in schools, including a trial of the ReZone digital platform that helps students refocus when they are feeling agitated or stressed. 


Child Outcome Resarch Consortium (CORC)

Funder: Various

Duration: 2006 - ongoing

Lead: Kate Dalzell

About: The Child Outcomes Research Consortium (CORC) is the UK's leading membership organisation that collects and uses evidence to improve children and young people's mental health and wellbeing. Founded in 2002 by a group of mental health professionals determined to understand the impact of their work, today our members include mental health service providers, schools, professional bodies and research institutions from across Europe and beyond. We analyse and interpret data relating to mental health and wellbeing outcomes of more than 400,000 children and  young people in the UK, representing the largest data set of this kind worldwide. 


Children's Policy Research Unit (CPRU)

Funder: Department of Health and Social Care

Duration: 2019 -

Lead: Jess Deighton

About: The Policy Research Unit in the Health of Children, Young People and Families (abbreviated to the CPRU) was established by the Department of Health in 2011. The CPRU is based at the University College London Institute of Child Health and is funded for five years to examine research evidence for policy. EBPU lead the mental health theme within this unit. 


Education for Wellbeing: the largest RCT in school-based mental health in England
Pens in pot

Funder: Department for Education

Duration: 2018 - 2021

Lead: Jessica Deighton

About: There is increasing awareness of high levels of mental health needs in schools across England. Schools are asking for guidance on the best ways to support their pupils. The trial will take place in 300 schools and 26,000 pupils across England. Over 200 of these schools have already started and a further 150 schools are being recruited. Professor Deighton and her team are investigating five new approaches and comparing them with current practice in schools. Schools are randomly allocated to use one of the approaches only. Schools will start delivering the interventions to pupils in January 2019.

  1. A set of five lessons for Y9 that use role play designed to improve pupils’ understanding of mental health and reduce suicide rates. Developed in Sweden and America, Youth Aware Mental Health (YAM) encourages pupils to share their own ideas about how to maintain good mental health and how to help each other to find ways to resolve everyday dilemmas
  2. A teacher training programme developed in Canada called The Guide. Adapted for England for the study, it develops teachers’ understanding of mental health, trains them on how to teach their pupils about it and addresses stigma
  3. A series of eight lessons designed to increase young people’s skills around personal safety and managing their mental health, as well as helping them to identify their support networks
  4. Training pupils in relaxation techniques embedded into the school day, every day for five minutes
  5. Training pupils in mindfulness embedded into the school day, every day for five minutes.

More information:


F-CAMHS/Secure Stairs

Funder: NHS England

Duration: 2018 - 2021

Lead: Julian Edbrooke-Childs

AboutCommunity Forensic Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (F:CAMHS) are 13 new services commissioned by NHS England & NHS Improvement as part of a national service specification. These services are designed for young people about whom there are questions regarding mental health or learning disability, high risk of harm towards self or others, major family or professional concern, and/or who are in contact with the youth justice system. Community F:CAMHS were commissioned as part of a national service specification. EBPU is using a mixed-method realist evaluation to explore the impact of these services. The overarching aim of the evaluation is to examine whether the implementation of the new national service specification, for high risk young people, leads to improved understanding of needs and improved case co-ordination and support.

SECURE STAIRS is a new Framework for Integrated Care, which is being implemented in the Children and Young People Secure Estate (CYPSE), which is a collective term for three types of secure settings for children and young people placed for justice and/or welfare reasons: 1) Secure Children’s Homes, 2) Secure Training Centres, and 3) under-18 Young Offender Institutions, in the UK. The Framework involves training staff to provide more psychologically informed care, centred around comprehensive, co-produced assessments of young people’s needs to ensure all needs are identified. EBPU is using a mixed-method realist evaluation to explore the impact of this Framework. The overarching aim of the evaluation is to examine whether the implementation of SECURE STAIRS changes culture in these settings, to focus on whole-systems approaches to creating positive change for all children and young people.


HeadStart Learning Team

Funder: The National Lottery Community Fund

Duration: 2017 - 2023

Lead: Jess Deighton

About: HeadStart is a five-year, £58.7 million National Lottery funded programme set-up by The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK. It aims to explore and test new ways to improve the mental health and wellbeing of young people aged 10 to 16 and prevent serious mental-health issues from developing.

Six local authority led HeadStart partnerships in Blackpool, Cornwall, Hull, Kent, Newham and Wolverhampton are working with local young people, schools, families, charities, community and public services to make young people’s mental health and wellbeing everybody’s business.

EBPU is working with The National Lottery Community Fund and the HeadStart partnerships to collect and evaluate evidence about what does and doesn’t work locally to benefit young people now and in the future. Partners working with the Evidence Based Practice Unit on this evaluation include the Child Outcomes Research Consortium (CORC), Common Room, and the University of Manchester. 


The Link Programme

Funder: Department for Education

Duration: 2019-2023 (Current phase)

Lead: Jaime Smith and Melissa Cortina

AboutEBPU led the development of the CASCADE framework which helps schools and specialist mental health services audit their work together and develop better working relationships. This framework is used as part of the Link Programme, which help CCGs and Local Authorities work together with schools and colleges to provide timely mental health support to children and young people. It empowers staff by brokering contact, sharing expertise and developing a joint vision for CYP mental health and well-being in each locality.

The programme comprises two workshops delivered at least six weeks apart. The workshops bring together education and mental health professionals and draws on evidence-based approaches to training and system transformation. The programme ensures that children and young people can get the help they need, when they need it. 

The Link Programme was successfully piloted in 2015/16 in 255 schools and CYPMHS across 27 CCGs in England and was independently evaluated by Ecorys. The DfE commissioned the AFNCCF to deliver the programme to a further 23 CCG and LA areas in 2017-19, which reached 1,100 schools and colleges and 1,000 mental health professionals. AFNCCF have now been commissioned to roll the programme out across England. Over the next four years the programme will be offered to every school and college in the country that has not yet taken part. EBPU is evaluating the rollout of the Link Programme.


Me First

Funder: Health Education North Central and East London (HENCL)

Duration: 2015 - 2018

Lead: Julian Edbrooke-Childs

About: Me First is an education and training resource that is designed to help healthcare professionals and front-line staff to develop their knowledge, skills and confidence in communicating with children and young people. It does this by encouraging a child-centric mentality in staffand providing tools and advice. Common Room has developed Me First in partnership with healthcare professionals and children and young people.

EBPU is evaluating the project.


Mental Health Data Pathfinder

Funder: MRC

Duration: 2018 - 2020

Lead: Julian Edbrooke-Childs

About: The unit is part of a successful MRC Mental Health Data Pathfinder award led by Professor David Osbourne. The awards are two-year pump-priming awards aimed at UK universities already engaged in mental health-related research. They are flexible institutional awards with a single application stage, to be used to create a foundation for the development of a UK Mental Health Research Platform, with further funding expected in the future. 


Mental Health Policy Research Unit (MHPRU)

Funder: Department of Health and Social Care

Duration: 2017 - 2022

Lead: Julian Edbrooke-Childs

About: The NIHR Mental Health Policy Research Unit (MHPRU) at UCL and KCL was established in 2017. Its aim is to help the Department of Health and others involved in making nationwide plans for mental health services to make decisions based on good evidence. The MHPRU makes expert views and evidence available to policymakers in a timely way and carries out research that is directly useful for policy. It is managed by academics at UCL and KCL in partnership with collaborators from City and Middlesex University, the Centre for Mental Health and the Mental Elf.

EBPU is part of the all-age mental health PRU.


Mentally Healthy Schools

Funder: Heads Together

Duration: 2018 -

Lead: Jaime Smith

AboutMentally Healthy Schools brings together quality-assured information, advice and resources to help primary schools understand and promote children’s mental health and wellbeing. Its aim is to increase staff awareness, knowledge and confidence to help primary school staff support their pupils.


    The Mercers' Company Schools Evaluation

    Funder: The Mercers' Company

    Duration: 2016 - 2022

    Lead: Jess Deighton

    About: The Mercers’ Company has been involved in education for more than 500 years, since the foundation of St. Paul’s School in 1509. They aim to be a force for educational innovation and excellence for the benefit and future success of students from a wide range of social and economic backgrounds.

    EBPU is working with Mercer’s Company schools to evaluate an initiative to support the mental health and wellbeing of pupils.


      more than mentors
      More than Mentors

      Funder: Community Links

      Duration: 2015 - 2021

      Lead: Jess Deighton and Christie Roman

      About: The More Than Mentors project is part of HeadStart Newham. It aims to help young people learn ways to improve their resilience, build their confidence and gain valuable problem solving and goal setting skills. Young people at schools running More Than Mentors can apply to beome either a mentor or a mentee.

      EBPU is evaluating the programme.


      power up
      Power Up 2

      Funder: Department of Health

      Duration: 2017 - 2019

      Lead: Julian Edbrooke-Childs

      About: Power Up is a research project to develop an app which enables young people, aged 11 to 19, to record and share ideas and decisions in ways that empower them to take a more active role in therapy.

      EBPU is also working on two other versions of Power Up; one for parents and one for young people with additional needs.


      Precision Child and Adolescent Mental Health

      Funder: MQ

      Duration: 2017 - 2019

      Lead: Jess Deighton

      About: This project involves trialling an approach to link data from the CORC data set with that held in NHS digital whilst maintaining anoymity throughout. The ultimate aim is to consider how best to predict mental health outcomes, taking into account a range of case complexity factors.


      resilient 1
      Resilient 1

      Funder: Wellcome Trust, Maudsley Charity & Department of Health

      Duration: 2017 - 2018

      Lead: Julian Edbrooke-Childs

      About: RESILIENT 1 engages vulnerable young people with severe mental illness, who are under the care of NHS Adolescent Mental Health Units, and works with them to build their resilience against the root causes of homelessness, enabling them to protect themselves against harmful stressors as they leave in-patient care and transition into adult life.

      EBPU is evaluating the project.



      Funder: National Institute for Health Research

      Duration: 2014 - 2018

      Lead: Julian Edbrooke-Childs

      About: The ReZone digital platform helps students refocus when they are feeling agitated or stressed. It contains a range of activities, including mindful breathing and stress management activities. EBPU is developing and evaluating the app.



      Funder: Department for Education

      Duration: 2018 - 2020

      Lead: Julian Edbrooke-Childs

      About: SafeCORE is a new and innovative whole family approach to Domestic Violence, launched in Greenwich. SafeCORE will work with children and their families who are living with the impact of situational couple violence to reduce incidents of this violence, improve family relationships and address both the short and long term harm caused. The unit is evaluating this important initiative.


      Smart Toys

      Funder: Committee for Children

      Duration: 2018 -

      Lead: Julian Edbrooke-Childs

      About:The unit is working with Petr Slovak and colleagues on their development and evaluation of interactive ‘smart toys’ to support emotional self-regulation in young children.


      talking mental health
      Talking Mental Health

      Funder: Wellcome Trust

      Duration: 2016 - 2017

      Lead: Miranda Wolpert

      About: Talking Mental Health worked with children and young people to create a 6-minute animated film aimed at 9–11-year-olds. In a series of workshops, a group of children and young people collaborated with a creative team of animators, film makers and sound artists. They used animation, live-action film, drama, drawing, sound and words to bring ideas and experiences to life.

      A range of supporting materials for teachers and parents has been developed alongside the animation. The aim is to enable lively, open and realistic conversations about mental health to take place in the classroom. EBPU evaluated the pilot of the animation in schools around the country.


      TaMHS Dataset

      Funder: Department for Education

      Duration: 2008 - 2011

      Lead: Miranda Wolpert

      About: The unit led a large evaluation of a national initiaitve to support targeted mental health in schools. This included a three year longitudinal study of children in schools and a one year randomised control trial. Children completed self-report questionnaires year-on-year and these were combined with data from the national people data set. These data are available for use by other researchers under appropriate conditions of data security. 

      We welcome enquiries from those interested in using the dataset.


      Technology Enabled Mental Health (TEAM)

      Funder: EU Horizon 2020 programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions initiative

      Duration: 2017 - 2020

      Lead: Julian Edbrooke-Childs

      About: TEAM is a 4-year Innovation Training Network (ITN) focusing on the design, development and evaluation of new technology enabled mental health services. The overall objective is to train this new generation of researchers who can help to deliver more effective, affordable and accessible mental health services for young people. 

      EBPU is hosting two PhD students who are working on digital projects as part of TEAM.



      Funder: n/a

      Duration: 2015 - ongoing

      Lead: Kate Dalzell

      About: A collaboration of authors from the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families and the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust present THRIVE: a new conceptual framework for CAMHS. The THRIVE framework is a way of conceptualising need amongst a community of children, young people and their families. Need is measured under five categories; thriving, getting advice, getting help, getting more help and getting risk support. A collaboration has formed to consider how best to support implementation of THRIVE (i-THRIVE).

      EBPU is part of the author group.


        Time 2 Talk / Off The Record

        Funder: NSPCC

        Duration: 2018 - 2019

        Lead: Julian Edbrooke-Childs

        About: Off the Record (OTR) Youth Counselling Croydon was founded in 1994 to provide free, independent and professional counselling for 14 – 25 year olds in the Croydon area. Since then the charity has expanded to include further areas of work including BME mental health work; a young carers service offering support to young people under 26 who are caring for a parent or sibling; a specialist counselling service for young refugees; online counselling and workshops; and our young people's counselling service in the boroughs of Sutton and Merton. The unit is evaluating the service to understand their impact.


        young smiles
        Young Smiles: improving resilience for children living with parents with mental health issues

        Funder: National Institute for Health Research

        Duration: 2016 - 2018

        Lead: Miranda Wolpert

        About: This 3-year study builds on the NSPCC’s Family SMILES programme to produce an enhanced intervention, called Young SMILES, which aims to produce specific benefits for children’s health and functioning, and can be flexibly delivered within and outside NHS services. EBPU is part of the project group.