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EACEA National Policies Platform


7. Health and Well-Being

7.6 Mechanisms of early detection and signposting of young people facing health risks

Last update: 22 January 2021

LAST MODIFIED ON: 11/09/2020 - 13:09

On this page
  1. Policy framework
  2. Stakeholders
  3. Guidance to stakeholders
  4. Target groups
  5. Funding

Policy framework

There is no overall policy framework for mechanisms of early detection and signposting of young people facing health risks. Early detection mechanisms are applied locally through such services and organisations as: the school nurse service, CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services), local authority youth services and local Health and Wellbeing Boards. Young people are signposted to a wide range of projects and programmes operated at local level which are often operated by third-sector organisations or charities with government funding.

For example, the Street Talk programme, was delivered by Addaction and Mentor UK, with funding from the Home Office).  It trained and supported staff at 20 grassroots groups to:

  • identify appropriate settings in which to conduct outreach work with young people
  • use the CRAFTT screening tool to identify young people vulnerable to substance misuse
  • deliver low intensity substance misuse interventions based around motivational interviewing (Project CHAT)
  • offer young people advice and information on drugs and alcohol
  • promote engagement with drug and alcohol services

The groups had contact with more than 2,000 young people and delivered 800 interventions.

The independent evaluation of Street Talk found that of those young people who received the Project CHAT intervention, more than two thirds indicated that their knowledge and confidence to make informed decisions about safer levels and methods of alcohol and drug use had increased.



Targeted Youth Services

Local authorities’ targeted youth services work with young people who require additional support to enable them to make informed choices and maintain positive pathways.  The teams include various combinations of professionals such as substance misuse workers, youth counsellors and targeted youth support workers.

School nursing teams

As highlighted in Maximising the School Nursing Team Contribution to the Public Health of School-Aged Children, the school nursing team can be well-placed to notice early indications of problems, and to ensure that:

children, young people and their families health needs are assessed and supported, and where additional health needs are identified, they receive an early response, including appropriate referral to specialist services and signposting to other agencies as per the relevant pathway (p.7).

Guidance to stakeholders

There is no overarching policy on early detection and signposting of young people, however guidance to stakeholders working with young people in varying contexts highlights the importance of this. For example:

  • Department for Education guidance for teachers (2016)  on behaviour and mental health notes that teachers are often in a position to notice signs of problems, through their knowledge of their pupils. The guidance includes information on mental health difficulties and identification tools.
  • NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) produces guidance which includes detection, risk profiling and referrals, e.g. on identification and management of depression in children.
  • Public Health England issues guidance on risk/vulnerability factors, e.g. on substance abuse.

Target groups

Target groups vary according to the intervention area.

Targeted Youth Support services are aimed at helping vulnerable young people early, so that their difficulties can be addressed as soon as possible, and to prevent their problems escalating. They are typically targeted at young people who without help are at future risk of further problems such as substance misuse, youth offending, teenage pregnancy and homelessness.

In particular (p.4), this is likely to include young people whose situation includes one or more of these factors:

  • persistent absence or exclusion from school
  • behavioural problems
  • poor emotional, social or coping skills
  • poor mental health
  • learning difficulties and disabilities
  • low self-belief
  • poor aspirations
  • attitudes which condone risky behaviours
  • poor family support, family conflict or problems such as parental substance misuse
  • poor support networks
  • family or friends, or involvement in gangs, who condone high risk activities
  • living in a deprived neighbourhood
  • poverty.

The guidance by the Department of Health and Public Health England on school nursing teams states (p. 15):

Particular attention should be paid to the vulnerable children who experience the worst health outcomes, such as Children in Care, NEET, young offenders, children with disabilities and young carers.


Early detection and signposting is an integral part of services for young people and not separately funded.