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Innovation Unit

Client: Rochdale Borough CCG & Rochdale Borough council

Role: Project lead


“I used to think everything was my own fault.

I’m  just learning it wasn’t all just me.” 


"In the past it has always been referrals and waiting list. I had a crisis with my daughter and they referred me to CAHMS, but I’m still waiting after many weeks while it was an emergency referral." 

Supporting children and young people in Rochdale to #Thrive

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. They support them with anything from lifestyle advice, to physical activities, to emotional support. But more than that, it is a place where kids can be themselves, feel at home, feel connected. 


We supported Rochdale Borough CCG to develop a more engaging and collaborative way of commissioning children’s services. This process led them to develop the #Thrive service which was completely different to anything that they had commissioned before. We then worked with the #THRIVE team to develop a culture of co-production and we designed the service together with a core group of amazing children and young people. The service is located in 'Around the Corner', a community space and cafe where you can turn up and hang out whenever you feel like it. 

Visit the #THRIVE page

The challenge 


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. They don't want to wait to be referred, but they want to be able to walk in themselves and get what they need. 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? 

The journey

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We helped commissioners to develop a new collaborative approach to commissioning based on the principles of co-design. We trained the team in the co-design methods and they conducted their own ethnographic research. 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 collaborative commissioning model led to the commissioning of #Thrive. With the new team we developed a culture of co-production, by bringing in a core group of young advisors. Together we develop every aspect of the service, from the user experience to the actual interior design of the space. The young advisors made a film to communicate what the service should be according to them, and to show that this is a space created and led by children and young people. We developed a visually engaging interactive Co-design wall that is central to the space, to make sure every decision is made in a collaborative way with staff, children and young people. 


The impact 


#Thrive won the Redesign of Care in Mental Health Award in the Healthcare Transformation Awards 2017.

#Thrive helped to end the rise in referrals received by Tier 3 CAMHS. They are seeing an impact on unmet need with children and young people who would never have previously accessed services. 


  • 1800 children and young people now access the service annually. 40% self referred to the service. 

  • 80% of children and young people have seen a reduction in the number of problems they face and the levels of distress they experience. They feel they have moved towards an aspiration that they set for themselves. 

  • 90% of parents were as involved in their children's care as much as they wanted to be.

  • 80% of parents are happy with the care and support their child received.

“It’s a massive change working here. I worked for 15 years at Healthy Young Minds. 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 

“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 Borough council

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