Places Network: It's all about the brains

13 October 2017

By Ben Lewing, senior adviser at EIF.

Our latest biannual Places Network meeting last week brought together colleagues from Newcastle, Islington, Bradford, Sutton, Luton, Haringey, Oxfordshire, Camden, Newham, Bedford, Hertfordshire and Croydon. I know that everyone was investing precious time to get away from the business of the office to think about early intervention with like-minded people.

You can find out more about what we covered in the slides from the day. But these are the things that really leapt out at me:

  • We need to work harder to bring maternity services into the early intervention family – they are such an important part of the journey for families, but don’t seem sufficiently well connected to the wider system yet.
  • The narrative about tackling interparental conflict has huge potential for agencies seeking to get upstream on domestic abuse, particularly the police. EIF’s new Commissioning Guide needs to be more explicit about this when we publish the next version in January 2018.
  • It was very exciting to hear about the work of the Association for Young People’s Health on training about the teen brain in Hertfordshire, in particular the interaction of dopamine (pleasure-seeking and risk-taking) and cortisol (anxiety, stress) on young people’s behaviour, and helping teens to ‘beef up the prefrontal cortex’. Important questions remain about what new knowledge about adolescent brain development means for the professional training of the people who work with them, including teachers and GPs, and crucially, what evidence-based early help systems for teens look like.

Important questions remain on what new knowledge about adolescent brain development means for the professional training of the people who work with them, including teachers and GPs, and crucially, what evidence-based early help systems for teens look like.

  • A wonderful example of how to describe the missing step in a logic model for implementing a new approach: “…and then a miracle happens”.
  • Fidelity and sensitive adaptation is still a hot topic for local areas: how to know ‘what works about What Works’ so that it can be applied to practice more broadly, and how to improve the quality of implementation when this has such an important effect on results. We mustn’t forget about implementation quality when we focus on impact evidence.
  • Transactional relationships between practitioners and highly vulnerable young people can mirror their experience of demanding abuser relationships – if you want to build a trusting relationship “sometimes you just need to have a coffee”.
  • Young people’s expectations of trusted relationships are not about office hours, buildings and formal structures, but our formal systems can reinforce the opposite (for example).

If you were there, share what leapt out for you below. If you didn’t make it but this sounds like your kind of conversation, keep 1 March free.