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Transforming Organisations

Children and Young People’s Mental Health Inpatient Services (CAMHS)

Children and young people should expect their rights will be respected when they seek help from mental health inpatient services and that they will be safe and supported – but the reality can often be very different. Large-scale change is needed within these services and disruption of the everyday decisions and practices that have become ingrained.

We’re working with children and young people who have experience of NHSE Children and Young People’s Mental Health Inpatient Services (CAMHS) as well as their families and those who support them. We’re also working with CAMHS staff and leadership. Our activities focus on building the knowledge, skills and confidence of staff to make rights-respecting decisions and to help young people and their supporters to frame their concerns and challenges using human rights law.

Our Resources for Young People

We worked with our Lived Experience Experts to co-develop Human Rights Guides for young people accessing inpatient services and their loved ones and families.

We held a launch event for these resources in February 2023.

Can you spare five minutes to help us improve future resources? We'd love to hear your feedback on our Human Rights guides, flowcharts and/or poster so we can make our resources are as useful as possible.

How we designed the programme

Our aim is to improve outcomes for children and young people with mental health issues by:

  • involving and learning from children, young people and their loved ones to embed a culture of respect for human rights within CAMHS services;

  • supporting staff and leadership to better understand why and how to use a human rights approach; and

  • supporting sustainable, long-term policy and practice chance within CAMHS services.

To do this, this programme has been co-developed with children and young people with experience of inpatient mental health services, as well as their families. We are supporting young people with greater knowledge of their rights and, together, we are mapping the shared issues they face to human rights standards. This is the basis of the training for staff, ensuring the young people's experiences are at the heart of the learning we deliver.

About the programme

Since the passing of the Human Rights Act, BIHR has worked with a range of public bodies, services and community groups to support the integration and use of human rights in day-to-day work. We work across the UK and whilst we work on lots of issues, we have a particular expertise in human rights and health and social care.

We were invited to share our learning with NHS England’s Quality Improvement Taskforce for Children and Young People’s Mental Health Inpatient Services. It became clear that both staff and patients saw a significant gap in human rights practice in CAMHS services, and the potential for human rights practice to help improve the experiences of children, young people and their families and supporters.

A number of recent interactions between BIHR and NHSE working groups and provider forums have revealed a significant human rights knowledge and confidence gap. This gap is in understanding how human rights set down both a legal compliance framework and a practical decision-making tool which enables staff to make rights-respecting decisions both operationally and strategically.

The programme addresses this gap through four phases:

  • Supporting children, young people and their parents and loved ones to know and claim their rights when accessing CAMHS services. This included workshops, learning materials and the recruitment of Lived Experience Experts.

  • Supporting NHSE CAMHS inpatient staff to respect, protect and fulfil human rights in every single interaction by offering a two-part Human Rights Learning Programme developed and delivered in partnership with Lived Experience Experts. NHSE controls when and how dates are allocated to ensure places are made available to staff working across different units and wards.

  • Creating the opportunity for long-term and sustainable change by offering 48 staff members within NHSE a five-day intensive course and dedicated mentoring.

  • Hosting five free, open-access workshops for children and young people accessing CAMHS services as well as their advocates and loved ones.

The impact of the programme

Participant at our staff workshop

“A training session that was really interactive and interesting and affects every aspect of our working relationships, really good to have space to reflect and consider and shape future practice.”

Participant at our open access workshop

"A really informative and accessible session! I feel much more empowered to speak about human rights now."

Importantly, this programme is not a quality mark; participating in this programme does not mean services have a human rights “tick”. This programme focuses on ensuring there is a base level of knowledge and confidence to make everyday decisions that upholds rights. Being rights respecting is about taking what is learnt and applying that as the standard way of working. Staff and the service must take responsibility for this and NHSE and the commissioner and the CQC as the regulator have vital roles in ensuring accountability.


This project was funded by NHS England’s Quality Improvement Taskforce for Children and Young People’s Mental Health Inpatient Services. The Taskforce was established in July 2019 as part of the NHS’s long term plan to transform mental health, autism and learning disability services. Read more about the Plan and the Taskforce.

The future of this programme

Our CAMHS programme will continue to run in 2023.

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