Personalised care could ‘revolutionise’ mental health support for disadvantaged children and young people

Personalised mental health support for disadvantaged children, where help is flexible and tailored to young people’s specific needs, improves treatment and responds effectively to individual’s lived experiences and challenges.

A series of focus groups, coordinated by the National Children’s Bureau, with children, young people, parents and the practitioners who work with them, indicates that personalising care plans, and offering individual budgets to access opportunities to study and build positive relationships can improve a young person’s mental health, life chances and wellbeing in ways that clinical services cannot always achieve.


Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds face a range of significant barriers to accessing support. They often lack awareness of the options open to them, and digital poverty can restrict their access to opportunities.

A photo of a teenage boy with a quote over the top.

Children said that a flexible and individualised package of support worked best to reduce loneliness and isolation; improve access to education and training, and provide practical help.  Personal health budgets and social prescribing approaches enabled them to access items and or experiences which young people from socially deprived backgrounds would otherwise not be able to access.

Children and young people particularly value a long-term, trusted relationship with a support worker who can coordinate holistic and integrated care so that their complex and overlapping needs can be met.

Amanda Allard, Assistant Director at the National Children’s Bureau, said:

“Co-producing mental health support for disadvantaged children and young people, so they have choice, control and flexibility, can revolutionise the impact and outcomes they experience.

“Children want services that offer continuity in the staff they work with, and provide community-based services where they can discuss their issues in accessible and de-medicalised language.

“We need support for these new ways of working, so mental health services can respond rapidly and inclusively, with the personalised help that children and families value as soon as problems arise.”

Helen Farmer, for Children and Young people and Learning Disabilities, Mid and South Essex CCGs said:

“As commissioners want to build a personalised approach to supporting children and young people and wholeheartedly support the recommendations of the NCB report. We must ensure a personalised and co-produced approach for young people. We have always valued partnership working with, providers, the community and voluntary sector and children and families, to provide person-centred support. When we do this genuinely, it makes a huge impact and benefits young people and their families.”

The report, ‘Making a Difference to Young People’s Lives Through Personalised care: Mental Health Inequalities and Social Deprivation’, recommends:

  • Investment in recruiting and training support worker roles in the long-term;
  • Establishing a Community of Practice for sharing learning between practitioners supporting disadvantaged children’s mental wellbeing;
  • Co-producing personalised community-based support with children, young people and families.
  • Supporting 16 to 25-year-olds with gradual transitions from children’s support into adult care.
  • Support for the introduction of the ‘Different Conversations’ approach, focused on positive solutions-based discussions, and training around meeting the complex needs of children and young people across health services and social care.

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About the report

‘Making a Difference to Young People’s Lives Through Personalised care: Mental Health Inequalities and Social Deprivation’ is available at:

This report was commissioned by NHS England to understand how personalised care interventions can better support children and young people who experience poor mental health and social deprivation, and to develop evidence regarding what works to enhance the personalised care offer for this cohort.  The report makes a series of recommendations aimed at improving the experiences of this group, based on engagement work undertaken across the three sites with 19 young people, 11 parents and 7 site professionals. It engaged with services based in Bristol, Thurrock and Nottingham via:

•          interviews with key site professionals responsible for commissioning, planning and delivering a personalised mental health offer for young people,

•          focus groups and individual interviews with young people who had accessed support.

•          Focus group with parents/carers of young people who had accessed support

•          interviews with parents who had accessed support for their family.