Sefton: responding to transitions through early intervention

In the past two years, Sefton Council, the two CCGs and Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust have been working collaboratively to develop early intervention services across Sefton that young people have access to before reaching a ‘breaking point’ in their mental health.

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Their goal was to build mental health resilience among the population of children and young people, and this has led to a number of initiatives. Below we discuss the important role of schools in the development of the early intervention services and we present the ‘one stop shop’ platform for referrals launched by Alder Hey in May 2021.

The challenge

In light of rising mental health needs locally, reflecting the national picture, Sefton Council identified that improvements could be made throughout their emotional wellbeing and mental health services to better support children and young people. This was particularly the case in improving support around schools and colleges, and ensuring that young people do not have to tell their story more than once. Research had shown that evidence based programmes for whole school approaches were not being delivered consistently across the council. 

The solution

Based on findings of research carried out in 2018-2019 in collaboration with Liverpool John Moores University, Sefton Council developed a support network within schools and colleges to enable their staff to better understand and meet mental health needs of students. This support includes a Young People's Emotional Wellbeing Toolkit for schools and colleges that provides staff with a comprehensive list of all services available across Sefton and threshold referral criteria for each one of them. The Toolkit is updated every year to include changes in the services and their details and has received very good feedback from school and college staff.

In addition, in 2021, Alder Hey launched a ‘one stop shop’ platform for referrals called CYP As One. The platform is the result of years of collaboration between partners in the Councils, the NHS Trust and the voluntary sector across Sefton and Liverpool, and is funded by NHS Digital. Young people, families and professionals can self-refer, with referral information collected only once and then provided it to all relevant and available services in Sefton and Liverpool. The digital service also provides users with resources, advice, and information on what to do if they need urgent help.

The impact

The CYP As One platform adds to the broader early intervention framework Sefton has been developing and enhances the support young people can receive. It is also tailored to their daily experience; the importance of having the platform interconnecting services across Sefton and Liverpool reflects the daily experience of students, who already commute between these two areas to go to school or to access other services.

While the toolkit for schools and colleges means that students can be referred to the most appropriate service without having to navigate the system alone, the newly introduced platform adds an additional layer of support and non-escalation of symptoms by ensuring referrals do not happen more than once. Young people do not have to go through the process of being asked to provide the same information numerous times to different service providers; a process that is well-known for having a negative impact on people already struggling with their mental health and putting them through unnecessary distress. 

How is the new approach being sustained?

The CYP As One Platform has been recently shortlisted for the HSJ Awards, showing the innovation and impact that the referral tool can have on young people.

The involvement of schools and colleges has proved to be of critical importance in moving towards mental health resilience in Sefton. The well-developed relationship, played a key role in securing two Mental Health Support Teams in Sefton as part of the Government roll-out. This will build on the support already in place through the Wellbeing toolkit for schools and  colleges. There are currently two MHSTs in place with Team 1 covering areas of greatest need and Team 2 focusing specifically on educational and mental health transition points. Funding for a third team has also been secured and will become operational in 2023.


The partnership in Sefton has really, really developed’

– Steve Gowland, Public Health Lead (Sefton Council)

Lessons learnt                                  

‘Get your partnership right’, stresses Steve Gowland. He elaborates that to establish a functioning and impactful partnership, you need to find the right people to involve; the ones who want to make a difference and who have the enthusiasm and the ability to influence others in doing so. Essentially, it is about encouraging a cultural change in the way partners have learned to work so far; and ‘the cultural change is the hardest thing’, Steve Gowland adds. 

Dr Vicky Killen adds that it is important to have all key actors – schools and colleges being one of them – involved and aware of their responsibility towards young people’s mental health and that building a partnership of such engagement takes time but makes the difference.


Steve Gowland - [email protected]

Public Health Lead (Wellness & Mental Health), Sefton Council

Dr Vicky Killen - [email protected]

Clinical Lead/ Clinical Psychologist, Sefton Specialist CAMHS, Alder Hey Children's NHS Trust