An innovative service model developed by staff from the Northern Trust is so effective it’s been rolled out regionally across all health trusts.
The model supports both children and parents in cases where a parent has been diagnosed with a mental health condition.
It creates champions within children’s services and adult mental health teams to provide advice, support and practical working guidelines. For example, the Champion in Children’s Services develops and shares knowledge and skills in relation to child protection policies and procedures, and the implication of parental mental illness on children.
Donna Morton, a Mental Health Champion in Children’s Services Referral Gateway, said: “The information sharing and collaborative approach supported through the champions model brings great benefits to both service users and their families. The sharing of information at the earliest stage in a parental mental health diagnosis allows the right care decisions to be made for children at the right time, and ultimately obtains better outcomes for the family as a whole”.
An independent evaluation of the initiative was carried out by Queen’s University which found an increase in the quality and number of referrals to Gateway as well as improved knowledge, confidence, relationships, and communication across the two directorates.
Keith Johnston, a Children’s Services Champion working in Adult Mental Health, said: “The model ensures parents are better informed as to why and what to expect when children’s services get involved. The champions also support parents through interactions with children’s services, explaining processes and reasons for action. This allows for a more cooperative working relationship between parents and children’s services”.
The initiative proved so successful that it has now been rolled out regionally, and there are currently 57 champions working across child services, including adult mental health, children and adolescent mental health and elder care. Assistant Director of Adult Mental Health Northern Trust, Kate Lambe said: “This creative approach demonstrates the commitment of staff in both directorates and their determination to improve practice for the purpose of protecting our most vulnerable service users”.