Children and young people’s mental health is one of the most pressing issues we face today. Yet, we know that for too long, children and young people have been struggling to get help with their mental health at an early stage.

Now more than ever, children and young people need mental health support designed for them, that they can access easily and quickly in their local area.

That’s why we are working with YoungMinds, Youth Access, The Children’s Society, Centre for Mental Health and Mind to jointly call for a network of hubs providing early mental health support across the country.

What are early support hubs?

Early support hubs are designed to offer easy-to-access, drop in support on a self-referral basis for young people with mental health needs. These hubs are non-stigmatising and provide a flexible approach to mental health support. They are based in the community and can be delivered by the NHS, local authorities, or through the voluntary sector.

A mix of clinical staff, qualified counsellors, youth workers and volunteers provide a range of support on issues related to wellbeing. The hubs can also offer a range of services that are co-located under one roof; offering wrap-around support across, for example, psychological therapies, housing advice, youth services, employment support and sexual health.

Hubs already exist in some areas of the country through the Youth Access ‘Youth Information, Advice Counselling and Service (YIACS) service model and we want to build on these successful examples.

What are the benefits of these services?

We believe early support hubs have a crucial role to play in providing early intervention support to children and young people in the community, helping to address emerging needs before they escalate and preventing more costly referrals to specialist services.

The Government has also recognised the importance of these services forming part of the universal local offer by recommending in its Future in Mind strategy that the number of one-stop shop services in the community should be increased as a way of making mental health support more visible and easily accessible for children and young people.

Early support hubs have been shown to be highly beneficial for young people, both internationally and in the UK.

Early support hubs have a number of benefits:

  • Research that has been conducted on existing early support hubs in the UK, or Youth Information Advice and Counselling Services (YIACS), reports comparable clinical outcomes to those accessing therapy through children and young people’s mental health services (CYPMHS) or school, while also reporting significantly higher satisfaction amongst young people with their experience.
  • Research has also shown that compared to CYPMHS and school-based counselling services, voluntary sector organisations were serving a greater proportion of ‘older’ young people, as well as higher proportions of LGBTQ+ young people, Black and minoritised ethnic young people, and young people with experience of contact with youth justice.
  • Evidence also suggests that services of this kind are associated with cost savings. Research from Youth Access[1] has shown that the help provided through their YIACS services is highly effective at improving young people’s mental health, with the potential to avoid escalation of mental health issues related to common social welfare issues such as housing, debt and employment.

What needs to change?

We believe that all local areas in England should have an early support hub to ensure that all young people get the support they need, at a time that is right for them. This needs to be supported by sustainable, long-term funding.

Join our call to Government to #FundTheHubs and deliver the early support that young people desperately need.

Author: Charlotte Rainer

[1] Malangone, L., Youth Access. 2020. “Young people’s experience of counselling in community settings.” Youth Access. November.