Spotlight On – Mental Health Support Team

Posted by Devon Partnership Trust in CAMHS, News on 19th September, 2023

Holly Billington, Service Manager within Children and Family Health Devon (CFHD)We spoke to Holly Billington, Service Manager within Children and Family Health (CFHD), covering Mental Health Support Teams (MHST) in schools and the community across Devon and Torbay. She told us about the purpose of her team, what she enjoys most about the role and what motivates her.

What is the main purpose of your team?

MHST work in schools and the community across Devon supporting young people aged between 5 to 18 with their mental health. We’re the biggest pathway within Children and Family Health Devon (CFHD) and from September 2023, we will have just over 100 members of staff.

Within the team we have Children’s Wellbeing Practitioners (CWPs) who work within the community offering 1-1 and group work for children, young people and parents of primary aged children. We are an early intervention service and offer Low intensity Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (Li-CBT). We also have Educational Mental Health Practitioners (EMHPs) in the team who also offer Li-CBT alongside Whole School Approach (WSA) work, including; workshops, training, consultations, time to reflect and a mental health ambassador programme.

We work closely with education staff in a health and education partnership. As many schools refer directly to us following consultation, our acceptance rate is nearly 100%. Families will also self-refer to us as well. Many of our referrals for the CWPs come from GPs and other professionals as well as self-referrals.  

We currently cover just over 40% of the school aged population across Devon and Torbay and from this time next year, we will be covering just over 50% of school aged children across Devon and Torbay. We’re currently waiting to hear whether we will receive funding for 100% coverage from the government.

What does a typical day look like?

For our EMHPs, they are in schools doing 1:1 work with young people, which is usually Li-CBT lasting 6-8 weeks, or they are running workshops, offering consultations and providing other WSA work.

The CWPs recently joined the MHST pathway, which is really exciting. As CWPs also work from Li-CBT, it has been fantastic to have all the staff working together. The CWPs are based in GP’s, community hospitals or other community settings and they provide an option for children who don’t want to be seen in schools to be seen in the community instead. It also ensures that the children within the schools that the EMHPs aren’t in, have the opportunity to access vital early intervention mental health support.

Our CWPs and EMHPs are supported by  a team of supervisors, managers and senior practitioners alongside our fantastic business support colleagues who keep everything running smoothly.

My day usually consists of lots of meetings to ensure the smooth running of our pathway and supporting the team managers. I’m part of the senior leadership team within CFHD and so I support the operational running across the service with my colleagues. Within my portfolio I’m also the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) link, so I will often go to meetings related to SEND and I quality assure EHCP contributions. I am also on the out of hours rota for senior management across CFHD. My role is very varied and I’m often based at different settings around the county.

We are a friendly team and always welcome visitors, and so if anybody would like to shadow us or to come and see what we do, you would be very welcome. We have a pathway descriptor which explains our thresholds and the menu of support we offer. We are always happy to come to team meetings too and share what we do.

What are your team’s current priorities?

The team have gone through a lot of change over the last few years, we are still a relatively new team and so the next year’s priorities are to consolidate our learning, continuously audit our work and make improvements across the pathway.

What qualifications and training do the team have?

The majority of our roles begin as trainee roles. Our trainees undertake a course at Exeter University which is part of their role for a year, after successfully completing the course they become qualified CWPs/EMHPs and Supervisors. In September we are taking on 15 new trainees.

We also have our experienced team managers and the senior clinicians, which at the moment consist of me and two operational and clinical leads and a further seven clinical and operational team mangers. All of our team members come from a variety of backgrounds and professional expertise, which adds to the depth of the pathway.

What are some of the challenges the team faces?

There’s never enough hours in the day!

We also have challenges around the unknown. We’re not sure what will happen next year in terms of being able to offer support across 100% of schools in Devon. We are very hopeful that we will receive funding to branch out to the other 50% of the schools that we are not currently in, however we are determined to ensure that our service reaches all young people across Devon and Torbay.

There are always challenges around having such a big team across a large county and ensuring staff feel connected to one another and are supported across all of their roles.

The joy within this role is that we’ve been given the gift of a huge early intervention pathway and we’re able to make a big impact. It doesn’t ever feel like we have challenges that we can’t face or that is to big (as cheesy as that sounds) we work together and overcome the challenges as a team.

What motivates you?

I love working in early intervention and seeing the difference that we can make to families and education staff. I enjoy managing from both the ‘bigger picture’ as well as working through the details and I’m very solution focused. I am also very lucky to have a supportive team around me, from those I manage and support, to the members of staff who manage and support me.

The children and young people are at the heart of everything that we do and having children of my own is also a big motivator. I feel very honoured to be in a position to be able to support children and their families and I want to get it right for each child that we come into contact with.

What achievement is your team most proud of?

There’s lots, but our most recent achievements are:

  • Roll out of Universal and targeted Decider Skills groups
  • Roll out of year 6 transition pilot workshops
  • Roll out of school holiday full day MH workshops
  • Promotional materials- leaflets/banners/stickers/pens/stress balls etc
  • CWPs integrated within the MHST pathway
  • Over haul of recruitment - recruitment days for EMHP recruits
  • Development of digital interventions- Lumi Nova (NICE guidelines) for primary and Silver Cloud for secondary age students. We’ve recently been shorted for the Academic Health Science Network's (AHSN) Innovate awards for the Lumi Nova app. The therapeutic digital intervention (game) helps 7-12 year olds learn to self-manage their fears and worries.
  • Development of mini YouTube videos about the MHST service and the interventions we offer
  • EDI champions within each team

What is the best bit of feedback you have received from a patient or service user?

We often receive really thoughtful feedback from our young people which always fills me with a lot of joy. We’ve received cards from young people that say “you’ve saved my life” and when a member of staff receives positive feedback, it means the world to them. Having positive feedback keeps you going and reminds you that what you’re doing is helpful and supportive.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

I’m really passionate about early intervention. You can see the difference you’re making and it’s so worthwhile to be able to offer the tools a child needs to empower them to feel happier and to manage their emotions. We are very lucky that we’re  not firefighting. We are able to think creatively about the right support for a child and family and we are supported to do this.

I like to start projects, carry them through to the end and see improvements. With this role I’m able to do this. I can be creative and problem solve. For example, there’s an increasing challenge at the moment for young people around body image concerns. We’re able to see what support and training is already out there and develop what we can offer to start tackling this as well as offering preventative psychoeducation.

The team I work with are amazing. They care deeply about getting the support right and I’m very lucky to work with the team in MHST as well as the wider CAMHS team.

What do you and your team do to unwind?

We all do different things. Quite a few of us like going sea swimming and walking. We’re lucky in Devon that we live close to the beach and are able to get out in nature and take a breather.

We also try to make sure colleagues don’t work over their hours and take regular breaks. It’s those little things that keep you going and it’s important to step away from the laptop. We’ve started to do more whole service days where we connect with one another and there’s lots of WhatsApp groups among the teams that allow people to support each other… cake often helps too.

And finally... how would you sum up your team in one word?

Kind. The team are truly kind to each other and to the service users. I could say lots of things about being passionate, caring etc. but I think being kind is the key. I know that if I reach out to any of my colleagues and say that I am having a tough day, or can you help me with this, that they will support me. Everybody turns up for each and wants to help. That’s really quite special.


The MHST alongside Paignton Academy and our Communications Team recently created two short films to raise awareness of how they support young people in schools and colleges. Both films can be viewed here: