Essex, Thurrock and Southend-on-Sea: POWER project

A design team came together drawing from staff in CAMHS, education, the voluntary sector and Youth Offending Services from three local authorities. The team examined two local critical cases and identified a need for a primarily solution-focused emotional wellbeing support for children in the 8-13 age range.


The challenge

The publication of the KPMG Health and Justice CAMHS Transformation Workstream Report spurred the children’s mental health commissioning team and the local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) provider into thinking about their role in the youth justice space. They recognised that there was a need for increased support in relation to Early Intervention and Prevention for Children and young people (CYP) in a cohort of children who had emerging emotional wellbeing issues with challenging behaviour, but who did not meet thresholds for acute mental health services.

Rather than beginning with existing programmes, a design team came together drawing from staff in CAMHS, education, the voluntary sector and Youth Offending Services from three local authorities. The team examined two local critical cases where very serious outcomes should have been avoided and identified a need for a primarily solution-focused emotional wellbeing support for children in the 8-13 age range. This coincided with the need to support transition between primary and secondary school and prevent the criminalisation (or further criminalisation) and school exclusion of young people who struggle with this transition.

The approach

The POWER (Promoting Opportunities with Emotional Resilience) Project supports children and young people aged 8-13 years who are known to the police for a variety of reasons. For example, Anti-Social Behaviour, offences below court thresholds, or frequently by being involved in incidents of domestic violence or as a victim of a crime. Those who are already in the care of the Youth Offending Service (YOS) or CAMHS are not eligible for this project.

Children are offered up to 12 one-to-one sessions with a POWER practitioner with additional sessions with the parent or family and the young person. Support to schools is also offered, such as delivering trauma awareness workshops. Although conceived as a solution-focused project, delivery adopted systemic, therapeutic and play-based as well as strengths-based approaches. Much of the work takes place in schools.

Referrals come from any agency, but the majority from schools; supporting young people to remain successfully in mainstream education is a key aim of POWER. Referrals peak in years 6 and 7 (aged 10-12). Those already supported by statutory services (CAMHS or children’s social care (CSC)) are not eligible. More than half of the young people referred have previous CSC involvement.

Local implementation

As a locally driven and designed offer, the POWER project responds to local needs and expertise and this is part of its success. A strong collaboration between the three participating Councils, the CAMHS provider, and the seven CCGs enabled the work off the ground. This partnership allows this work to continue through a Memorandum of Understanding and robust longstanding relationships with key commissioners and decision makers.

The POWER team put considerable effort into gaining referrals across services; the broad reach of the programme is both a strength and a challenge in maintaining referral relationships with hundreds of schools, SEND services, family wellbeing services, health services and voluntary organisations.

As the programme embeds into the YOS offer, there is a concern the multi-stakeholder conversation which has allowed the programme to thrive during the pilot stage will become lost. However, the YOS supports POWER’s approach to working with schools and parents and offers a better opportunity to work with Essex Police to identify those who have ‘fallen through the gap’. This and partnerships external to YOS keeps POWER outwards-facing.

Evidence of impact

There has been no formal evaluation of the POWER project. The team monitor routine data and collect (where possible) Strength and Difficulty Questionnaire data for children entering and exiting the programme.  When enough have completed, these will provide preliminary evidence of impact. The programme leaders suggest that early data is encouraging but this data is not in the public domain.

In addition, an independent team have undertaken some qualitative research which suggests that the POWER project is reaching children in need of support, and that it is valued by families and professionals as outlined in these quotes from those involved:

Teacher, 2019

I would like to pass on how impressed I am with the work she has done and is planning to do, she appears to have made a connection with mum and young person already. Without the knowledge and support she has provided to us we would have been unaware of the situation regarding home life and the concerns she has.

Parent, 2019

Thank you for your email, all the information and the effort you are going to, to help us. It's so nice to finally feel like we are getting some support from someone that genuinely cares.

Young person, 2019

It’s a place to understand where you have gone wrong and make sure you improve so you do not repeat the same mistakes, very helpal    

Contact details:

The Power Project website