Lessons from implementing Scotland’s Early Intervention Framework for children and young people - Implementation Network Meeting, April 2021

Graduate intern Kate Murphy looks at three key insights from April's Implementation Network meeting.

The Implementation Network of Ireland and Northern Ireland recently held its Spring 2021 meeting online. This attracted our largest Network meeting audience to date, with over 100 people participating from community and voluntary organisations, the public sector, research and academia. The meeting centred on mental health and wellbeing for children and young people in three jurisdictions – Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland. While our October Network meeting discussed local-level implementation, this meeting focused more on practice.

We were lead by Marita Brack and Judy Thomson’s work on 'Lessons from Implementing Scotland's Early Intervention Framework’ using an adaptation of the Hexagon tool. This was followed by an engaging talk from Anne Sheridan (Programme Manager for Mental Health and Wellbeing at the Health Service Executive) on implementing the MindOut Programme in the Republic of Ireland, and Paul Deighan on his work on The Children & Young People’s Emotional Health and Wellbeing in Education Framework as the Head of the Regional Youth Service with the Education Authority in Northern Ireland. You can view the slides from the event here.

Implementation Network3

As a CES intern, there were 3 key take home points for me around collaboration, sustainability, and context.

Collaboration - “It’s not how can I help you, it’s how can we help each other”

The previous Network meeting focused on collaboration at a local service-level, where trust, relationships, and organisational identity were key to effective collaboration. This meeting had similar themes, but they were applied more at a service user/implementer level. Prior to developing Scotland’s Early Intervention Framework, Marita spoke about how the team engaged in a collaborative process with communities to ensure a match between the framework and the values, priorities, and resources of those communities. During this engagement process, the team realised that their tool could be used not only to improve intervention outcomes, but also to improve equity across a range of communities. Echoing this, Paul Deighan discussed how the Northern Ireland Education Authority integrated a youth advisory group that held real influence over the direction of their intervention. These two examples of genuine collaboration and engagement with communities demonstrated an authentic and person-centred approach to implementation.

The value of collaboration was re-iterated in breakout discussions where people discussed the benefits of co-creation over a prescriptive approach, and the need to share evidence and break down silos during implementation. There were also some great points about how implementation science can make the implicit, explicit which in turn can facilitate implementation. In relation to this, participants mentioned the importance of personal relationships, taking a strengths-based approach, and making use of the lived experience of parents and peers.

Sustainability - “Operating from a Train and Hope Philosophy”

Whilst sustainability is often seen as a vital part of implementing most programmes, the achievement of this goal may sometimes be assumed, rather than planned for. Appropriate resourcing, consideration, and supports are required not only for the intervention but also for the implementation process, to avoid what Anne Sheridan called the ‘train and hope’ approach. This highlighted the importance of considering the sustainability of the intervention from the outset when allocating resources, and having systems established to monitor its effectiveness on an ongoing basis.

Context - “The copy and paste approach doesn't work”

Anne’s presentation honed in on the message that it is not enough to have a good initiative, you have to understand what’s making it work in each particular setting. She bolstered this point by highlighting that although there is an abundance of evidence-informed interventions in adolescent mental health, these programme often don’t scale up without appropriate, context-specific implementation. Paul discussed the unique complexities in Northern Ireland in terms of adapting to context. Network members also discussed this point about the importance of context, advocating for national guidance with flexibility at local level, focusing on the core components of the intervention, and allowing for consideration of different systems, structures, and cultural practices.

We conducted two quick polls at the end of the meeting which showed a preference for focusing on applied topics such as real-world examples and implementation skills at future meetings.

The Implementation Network will be holding its next meeting online in Autumn 2021 and hopes to meet in person in Belfast for the Spring 2022 meeting. As always, anyone interested in joining the Implementation Network of Ireland and Northern Ireland is welcome to email:

Implementation Events

  • European Implementation Event: The European Implementation Collaborative is hosting their bi-annual European Implementation Event online this year on May 27th & 28th. The EIE Program details the speakers and program outline over the two days and registration details can be found here: European Implementation Event Registration.
  • Global Implementation Conference is taking place from the 3rd to 6th of May, on the theme of “Addressing Equity in Implementation” for more info see: Global Implementation Conference
  • Using Evidence to Tackle Homelessness: Campbell UK and Ireland and CES are co-hosting an online event on Thursday 6th May examining how we can use evidence to address the challenge of homelessness from both policy and practice perspectives. To book a place please click: Using Evidence to Tackle Homelessness Registration

Training and education in implementation science

  • The Implementation Network of Ireland and Northern Ireland is holding an introductory training course on implementation science on the 11th and 14th of May. This course is now fully subscribed but if you are interested in attending a future training course, please register your interest here: Implementation Training Registration
  • The European Implementation Collaborative hosts a repository of education and training opportunities in implementation across Europe which can be found here: EIC Training Repository

Implementation Resources shared by participants at the Network meeting

Examples of Effective Implementation shared by participants at the Network meeting

  • The Nurture Programme was developed to support every parent with the best possible advice, information, and support to give the child the best possible start in life.
  • The Changing Lives Initiative has recently published a 3-year project report on the success of their cross-border initiative of early intervention programmes for ADHD.
  • The Healthy Ireland Start Smart project is a training programme to ensure preschool children are supported to adopt healthy lifestyle behaviours in early childhood.

Resources on Mental Health Support for Young People shared by participants at the Network meeting