Evidence Based Practice Unit


Research projects


Community F-CAMHS

Funder: NHS England and NHS Improvement

Duration: 2018 - 2021

Lead: Julian Edbrooke-Childs

About: The Evidence Based Practice Unit (EBPU) and the Child Outcomes Research Consortium are commissioned to evaluate the implementation and impact of Community Forensic Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (F:CAMHS) across England. Community F:CAMHS are 13 new Tier 4 highly specialist services providing input to the network around children and young people who are experiencing mental health and/or learning difficulties, and who are in contact with the youth justice system or present with a high risk of harm to self or to others.

The evaluation study comprises a mixed-methods design, combining quantitative service activity and feedback data, questionnaires with young people or their parents and carers, and interviews with staff, referrers and young people or their parents and carers. Observations of staff meetings are also undertaken, to explore the implementation and impact of Community F:CAMHS. An economic evaluation is also taking place.

Data collection is taking place between August 2018 and December 2020. Findings will be submitted to NHS England and NHS Improvement to inform policy and practice.

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

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 with 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:

A seminar
HeadStart Learning Team

Funder: The National Lottery Community Fund

Duration: 2017 - 2023

Lead: Jess Deighton

About: HeadStart is a six-year, £67.4 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 EBPU on this evaluation include the Child Outcomes Research Consortium (CORC) and the University of Manchester. This collaboration is called the HeadStart Learning Team. Previous partners in the HeadStart Learning Team include the London School of Economics (LSE) and Common Room.

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.

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Mental Health Data Pathfinder

Funder: MRC

Duration: 2018 - 2021

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. 

Young boy and teacher in the classroom
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.

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    The Mercers' Company Schools Evaluation

    Funder: The Mercers' Company

    Duration: 2016 - 2022

    Lead: Jess Deighton

    About: This project, which is a collaboration between the Evidence Based Practice Unit, the Child Outcomes Research Consortium, and the University of Manchester, aims to support The Mercers' Company's schools and colleges to monitor and evaluate their provision for their pupil’s mental health and wellbeing. 

    The original project engaged 13 schools and colleges across England from 2016-19. The key elements of the project included the implementation of the Wellbeing Measurement Framework (WMF) survey across selected year groups, ongoing support and guidance for participating sites to develop local evaluation work and in-depth evaluation support from the project team for a number of interventions. Alongside this was a commitment to engage sites in regular workshops to share national learning about children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing, to explore what sites are learning locally and to widen the capabilities of sites to evaluate and make sense of the resulting information.

    The continuation of funding between 2019-2022 will allow us to expand our work with sites to embed routine evaluation and the meaningful use of associated learning to improve services for pupils' and students' mental health and wellbeing.

    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.

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    'Precision medicine' approaches to child and adolescent mental health

    Funder: MQ

    Duration: 2017 - 2021

    Lead: Jess Deighton

    AboutThere is a call for precision medicine whereby child mental health interventions are tailored to meet the specific needs of individual young people. Evidence from other contexts suggests that precision medicine has benefits for effective treatment outcomes and efficient resource use. However, there is a lack of evidence in child mental health about which characteristics of a young person are associated with treatment outcome and resource use - crucial to underpin any precision medicine model.

    The aim of this research is to address this gap and thereby expand the use of data resources for mental health research while further developing the skills base in this complex field. MQ are supporting this work, through which EBPU and the Child Outcomes Research Consortium (CORC) are linking data about young people accessing child mental health services from the Mental Health Services Data Set (shared by NHS Digital) to the CORC dataset. Anonymity must be maintained throughout and we are linking the datasets using a probabilistic method, working with variables such as gender, care contact date, and organisation/team details. We will draw on this data to explore associations between case-mix characteristics and effective treatment outcomes and efficient resource use. The project will then work with young people, carers and therapists on the best ways of using this type of information in clinical discussions with young people and families.

    Please contact corc@annafreud.org for more information on this project.

    Woman and child walking through a park

    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.

    Woman speaking to someone across a desk

    Funder: NHS England and NHS Improvement

    Duration: 2018 - 2021

    Lead: Julian Edbrooke-Childs

    About: The Evidence Based Practice Unit (EBPU) and the Child Outcomes Research Consortium are evaluating the implementation and impact of a new Framework of Integrated Care called SECURE STAIRS. The aim of this is to better understand how some of the most vulnerable young people can be effectively supported to have improved wellbeing and life chances.

    SECURE STAIRS is being implemented across the Children and Young People’s Secure Estate (CYPSE) in Under-18 Young Offender Institutions, Secure Training Centres and Secure Children’s Homes. Eighteen sites in England are included in the National Evaluation. SECURE STAIRS provides a framework for a new way of working in the CYPSE that involves training staff to provide more developmentally-attuned, psychologically informed care which is centred around comprehensive, co-produced assessments of young people’s needs to ensure that all needs are identified.

    Researchers are conducting a mixed-methods evaluation to explore the implementation and impact of SECURE STAIRS and whether it results in sustained cultural changes. Sites are collecting routine service activity data and staff, children and young people and their parents/carers are completing questionnaires. A smaller number of interviews and focus groups are being conducted with staff and young people, and observations of staff meetings are also being carried out. An economic evaluation is also taking place.

    Data collection is taking place between August 2018 and December 2020. Findings will be submitted to NHS England and NHS Improvement to inform policy and practice.