New link workers in Norfolk and Waveney to provide early support for children with emerging mental health problems

PUBLISHED: 15:32 08 September 2017 | UPDATED: 15:33 08 September 2017

Mental Health. Pictured: A woman is consoled by her friend. Picture: Time to change/Newscast Online

Mental Health. Pictured: A woman is consoled by her friend. Picture: Time to change/Newscast Online

Time to change/Newscast Online

Children with emerging mental health issues are to receive earlier support, thanks to a new service launching in Norfolk.

The new link service, which is one part of a wider project to transform children’s mental health services in the county, begins as children return to school this week.

Norfolk’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service, which is jointly led by Norfolk County Council and the county’s five clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), has designed the new service, which will link directly with schools and children’s centres.

It is being developed with some of the additional £1.9m of additional annual investment from the NHS, which aims to bring more specialist mental health workers, improve existing services and be used to improve on-line support and reduce stigma around mental health.

The new link service will give schools and children’s centres extra advice and support via a dedicated link worker scheme.

It will see five link workers, one in each of CCG area, working directly with schools to offer advice, support and training on mental health issues.

Clive Rennie, assistant director of commissioning for mental health and learning disabilities for Norfolk County Council and the CCGs, said: “Identifying mental health problems early in children means that we can provide the right support before issues escalate and children and young people are left with difficulties that are much harder to treat.

“Schools already identify and provide support for children with emerging mental health needs but this additional support means there will be greater immediate liaison and support to schools. Having the new specialist workers in place will provide a consistency across the county and a clearer contact route for schools of who to go to for that early help and guidance.”

Those in the new roles will have experience of working with children and young people with eating disorders and those who self-harm, as these present in the early stages.

Penny Carpenter, chairman of the children’s services committee at Norfolk County Council, said: “We know with all health issues that early support and treatment is the most effective way of preventing problems from escalating and doing more harm.

“This service will give those working with children in our communities the information they need to ensure children and young people can access and receive the right support at an early stage, whether they have anxiety issues, early signs of depression, an eating disorder or are self-harming. We want to help children and families earlier across our services, because we know that it gives children a much better chance of a brighter future.”

The new link workers will be employed by Point 1, who provide early mental health support to children and young people in the county.

Mark Scrogie, strategic lead for Point 1, added: “This work recognises the importance of early action to support children and young people, and the vital, irreplaceable role that those who see them for so much of their lives, in schools, children’s centres and other settings, play in promoting and maintaining good mental health for the next generation.”

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