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Recommendations for effectively engaging with young people

Katie Lidington, who serves as the Service User Engagement Lead at Havering Integrated Children's Services, has proactively undertaken the recruitment and active involvement of six young people in a recent Quality Improvement (QI) project. The aim of this project is to achieve a 25% increase in discharges from Havering Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) by June 2024.

In the pursuit of comprehensive stakeholder engagement, the young individuals were integrated into project meetings right from the outset, allowing them to significantly shape the project and  provide a holistic perspective.  

Below, we present some of Katie's key recommendations for effectively engaging with young people:  

  • Utilise Expressions of Interest: The utilisation of expressions of interest proved useful in establishing clear expectations right from the project's outset. This approach not only set the stage for clarity but also facilitated broader representation among young people.

  • Select Appropriate Communication Channels: Katie observed that traditional modes of communication such as email and phone calls were not effectively reaching young people. Instead, text messaging was as a more effective means of correspondence, prompting the continued use of this channel.

  • Commence Engagement from the Outset: To gain firsthand insights into the experiences, perspectives, and journeys of young people within CAMHS, the project team initiated face-to-face meet-and-greet sessions. This early engagement significantly influenced the project's trajectory.

  • Establish a Feedback Loop: To ensure sustained engagement throughout the project's lifecycle, the implementation of a robust feedback mechanism was paramount. This practice kept young people informed about project updates and developments, thus maintaining their interest and involvement.

  • Flexibility is Key: Recognising the diverse needs and preferences of young people, flexibility was embraced. For instance, meetings were scheduled at times conducive to their schedules, taking into account the added stress and pressure caused by educational commitments such as exams. In cases where childcare posed a challenge, the team made every effort, within safe parameters, to accommodate their needs.

  • Understand the Motivation: To fully engage young people, it is essential to understand their individual motivations for involvement. Some may aspire to advance from involvement representation roles to other positions within the NHS. Accordingly , efforts should be made to explore avenues of support and alternative opportunities aligning with their aspirations.

  • Over-Recruit as a Contingency: Recognising the fluidity of circumstances, proactive over-recruitment was implemented as a safeguard. This strategy ensures that the project can continue seamlessly even  in the event of unforeseen participant attrition due to changing circumstances.

Moreover, it is essential to not only acknowledge young people's insights, experiences, and contributions but also to appropriately value their time. This extends beyond mere expressions of gratitude to incentivising their continuous engagement in meaningful ways such as being part of the improvement team.  

Katie's strategic and empathetic approach to engaging with young people in the context of the Havering CAMHS QI project serves as an exemplary model for inclusive stakeholder participation. Her efforts have not only contributed to the project's initial succ ess so far but have also underscored the importance of recognising and valuing the unique contributions of young people.

A few final words from Katie: 

“When we work in collaboration with users of service, we can sustain changes that lead to improvements in ways that are insightful, accessible, representative, and inclusive. This means improvements are likely to be more affective and increase the likelihood of desired healthcare outcomes being achieved up to 2.8 times more than when users of service are not part of the improvement team. Meaningfully involving people in their own care and the care of loved ones are integral partnerships that brings respect, dignity, value, and purpose ”.  

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