Supporting children and young people in Rochdale to not just be well, but to #Thrive

Collaborative Commissioning

With Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council and Rochdale CCG, Rochdale

Rochdale CCG and Rochdale Borough Council have developed #Thrive, an award-winning service with collaboration at its heart.

Bringing together commissioners, providers, children and young people, #Thrive is an early help mental health service providing emotional support in Rochdale for children and young people between 0-19 years. The service is jointly provided by Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust, a local third sector service ‘Youth in Mind’ run by Mind, and leisure provider Link4Life.

Services are often designed to fit within public service structures and strategies. But people’s lives are messy and the distinction between housing, well-being, employment and childcare, is blurry. Children and young people don’t want services that focus on their needs and just help them to manage. They want to feel safe, have fun, make new friends. Services should be there to support them to achieve that. 

What if services were designed around people’s dynamic and evolving lives? What if they interacted with other services around the user and were focused on achieving outcomes? 

In April 2015, Innovation Unit were asked to develop a new approach to commissioning based on the principles of co-design. Over the summer, the team worked together with community groups, children and young people to test a set of user-centered design principles and outcomes that informed the development of the emotional health and wellbeing service. By engaging with young people and placing their personal stories at the centre of the collaborative co-design process, the commissioning team were forced to challenge a number of assumptions that significantly changed the specification of the service. The new model won the Redesign of Care in Mental Health Award in the Healthcare Transformation Awards 2017.

The preventative model offers open door access for children and young people who feel they could benefit from some support to help with their emotional well-being. Any child that feels low can talk to someone right away. This means not having to wait for months to access support. The support is for them, by them, and they can choose when they want to access it. 

“It’s a massive change working here. I worked for 15 years at HYM. We used to talk about these things, but it was so clinical. This place is right in the community, people can walk in whenever they want; that changes everything. We really inhabit the values we were always talking about.” #Thrive staff member

Co-design session #Thrive Co-design Session

There is a team of 11 people who staff the #Thrive service. The team are a mixture of administrative staff, social workers, nurses, counsellors and qualified mental health support workers from voluntary sector partners. All staff have access to supervision from experienced mental health practitioners. A key innovative aspect of the #Thrive service is the Link4Life worker who is based there and whose role is to link the children and young people with leisure and creative activities that could benefit them. This is key to #Thrive being able to meet a broad range of needs because talking therapies are not the right option for everyone. For some young people the best thing for them is to be encouraged to do something active, new and sociable whether it’s football, boxing or making music.


A significant impact of Living Well is a reduction of the demands on CAMHS. #Thrive helped to end the rise in referrals received by Tier 3 CAMHS. All other CCGs across Greater Manchester have seen a continued rise in referrals to Tier 3 CAMHS over the same period.

The team is also seeing an impact on unmet need with children and young people who would never have previously accessed services. Anxiety, low mood and behavioural difficulties are the top presenting problems for children and young people accessing the service.

Emotional Wellbeing


of children and young people feel they have moved towards reaching a goal that they have set for themselves at the beginning of the intervention


of children and young people have been helped to reduce the number of problems they face and the level of distress they experience



children and young people now access the service annually, many of whom would not have received help before the service started


self referred to the service


referred to schools



of parents were involved in decisions about their child’s care as much as they wanted to be


of parents are happy with the care and support their child received

“The Innovation Unit were instrumental because they challenged our thinking, enabling us to approach this piece of work in a radically different way which also signalled to other stakeholders that this was going to be different. Drawing on best practice from elsewhere, they enabled us to raise our aspirations and appreciation of what is possible. Young people themselves reported high levels of self-empowerment from being engaged throughout the process.” Local commissioner, Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council

We worked with providers Youth in Mind, Pennine Care (CAMHS), and leisure provider Link4Life. Through upskilling staff in a co-design approach we helped them develop a service that would have lasting impact.  

Each provider was supported to adopt a new way of working, shifting their knowledge and thinking to working collaboratively with each other and with young people.

“Listening to young people drove the team forward. It was difficult to make time for the sessions, but the outcomes were so valuable! They kept the vision alive. Co-design has enabled us to deliver something very different.” Provider