Peer Support for Children and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing

Less than one percent of NHS funding is estimated to go to young people's mental health, despite evidence suggesting that 1 in 10 have a diagnosable mental health problem. Moreover, there is increasing and concerning evidence suggesting that the extent of these problems is growing. Our work at Ecorys on this subject has also increased substantially, including the initial and current evaluations of the Mental Health School Links programme, the Time to Change evaluation, and the evaluation of the Royal Foundations Mentally Healthy website.

A particularly important study we are currently working on is our evaluation of the Peer Support for Mental Health and Wellbeing Pilots. This is a large-scale programme run by the Department for Education, which started delivery in 2017. It offers funding to around 100 schools and colleges and 10 children and young people’s community organisations, with each successful applicant designing and delivering models to support the mental health and wellbeing of young people.

Research carried out for the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Taskforce showed the demand for peer support among children and young people, but its effectiveness has remained largely untested until now. Our evaluation sets out to change this. Through an in-depth programme of qualitative and qualitative research, we will aim to help the Department for Education understand not only whether peer support is effective, but also the factors that enable it to work in schools and youth settings with different circumstances and serving diverse local populations.  

Our approach includes the use of psychometric measures to provide a robust assessment of wellbeing and resilience among children and young people who take part, as well as gauging their satisfaction with the support. We are working co-productively with schools and youth groups, to assist them with self-evaluation, and to give children and young people a voice by using research diaries to record their experiences safely and securely during the pilots.

We look forward to working closely with schools, colleges and youth groups to develop this exciting area of research, and to reporting the full results in summer 2019.

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