More than 296 young people struggling with their emotional wellbeing have been helped by a new service designed by their peers.

The LINK service offers a ‘non-medical’ solution that provides a holistic approach to managing some of the issues young people face today – many of which have been heightened by the challenges faced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Worries and anxiety about isolation, identity, school, exams, and parents and carers working on the frontline have all increased over the last 18 months.

The service is a collaboration between Barnardo’s and several local Primary Care Networks (PCNs), which are groups of GP Practices working together. 

One of the young people who has used LINK said: "If I’d not met [my worker], I don’t think I’d have the confidence to leave the house and I’d be anxious all the time. I’m less worried now, it’s like the weight of the world has been lifted off my shoulders…She has really guided me to a better place. She’s listened to me and got me back on the right path. Now I live more in the present rather than worrying all the time about the future and the past. Now the future looks a lot brighter.” 

LINK provides individuals with that much-needed support, but what is particularly special about this service is that children and young people have been actively involved in co-producing it from the very outset. They have formed interview panels, describing to health and care professionals what they would need from the service, what it should look like, and what they would want from the practitioners involved. 

This has resulted in a truly personalised offer, which includes the provision of one-to-one and group support, the use of assessment tools, school drop-ins, and connecting children and young people to appropriate resources in the wider community which are best suited to their needs, interests and circumstances. It ultimately empowers individuals to look after their own wellbeing, and recognise when they might need further help. 

Since its launch the service has received 296 referrals. 76% of these have been made by GPs, with the remainder coming from schools, colleges, police and other organisations who value this new service. 

Now, more than a year in, the co-production work continues, with a number of children and young people who have accessed the service getting involved in further influencing and shaping its future.

Dr Richard Massey, Clinical Director of the Keswick and Solway PCN, said: “We knew there was a gap and that young people who needed some emotional help weren’t getting the support required, or were on waiting lists for medical services that might not have actually met their needs. For me, it was important that the people using the service had a hand in shaping how it would work. It is clear to us that if you ask young people, they know exactly what they need and have helped us to design a service which feedback tells us is really effective."

A parent said: "This is such a fantastic service to have; just having someone for kids to talk to when they feel they can't tell a parent or teacher makes such a difference to a child's mental health. Massive thank you Barnardo’s & NHS!!"

The LINK service is available to those aged between 5 and 19, and who are registered to a GP practice and/or attend school within the Penrith and Eden, Keswick and Solway, Brampton and Longtown areas.

For further details about the LINK service or to make a request for support, please email or call 07874 795 426.

To find out more about co-production, please visit our Co-Production Toolkit at: