Safeguarding online: How Young Somerset digitised their one-to-one therapy service in just one week

Young Somerset were able to move online with haste and care, while keeping their vulnerable young people engaged and satisfying NHS information security requirements.

Joe Roberson
Apr 15, 2020 · 4 min read
Photo by Todd Trapani on Unsplash

Three weeks ago Young Somerset were supporting 350 young people a week through face-to-face youth work and interventions. Their digital infrastructure could best be described as ‘fledgling’.

Three weeks ago teenagers in Somerset were looking ahead to the next day of school, hanging out with their friends, Mother’s Day, Easter, exams and school proms.

Then, like it did for so many of us, everything changed with the implementation of the UK government’s COVID-19 movement restrictions. On Friday, 20th March Nik Harwood, the charity’s CEO, suspended all face-to-face services. Suddenly 72 of the most vulnerable young people, those receiving weekly therapeutic CBT sessions from the charity’s Wellbeing Service were isolated at home. These young people were already part of the loneliest segment of society; home wouldn’t be a pleasant or safe place for some of them.

The Challenge

1. How to keep young people engaged and supported in the immediate short-term — so they know support is still there, that the tap won’t be turned off, while…

2. Finding a method of online delivery that was safe for staff, safe and accessible for young people, and met their NHS commssioner’s information governance and security requirements

By Sunday, 29th March they had agreed and signed off a new service delivery protocol with commissioners. The following day services resumed, now online.

Here’s how they managed it.

Slowing down

“I looked at the sudden need as an opportunity. This is what gave me the energy to approach digital head on. Knowing that the organisation could come out of this stronger.” — Nik Harwood, CEO, Young Somerset

Researching to understand

  • Internal meeting (Monday AM)
  • External meeting with local Child & Adolescent Mental Health Service Manager — their services were in the same position
  • Sharing peer support — joining WhatsApp groups set up by peer youth organisations
  • Playing the scenario forward — mapping safeguarding risks, mitigations and likely success indicators

Through this process a likely solution emerged, but there would still be security hurdles to jump and a safeguarding protocol to develop. And meanwhile their young people still needed supporting…

Keeping 72 young people engaged with the service

  • Call each of your young people. Reassure them that sessions will continue. Let them know it may be by video.
  • Keep your comms channels open and be ready to engage with any of your current or previous caseload if they message you by email, phone, WhatsApp or the service’s facebook page
  • Don’t implement other solutions — we are working on one.

As the team followed through on this Nik made contact with the service’s CCG commissioner to discuss information governance and security.

Four elements of information governance and security

The commissioner anticipated the need to move the service online, and the likelihood of increased demand. Once Nik had outlined his proposal he referred it to his Head of Information Security and Governance.

Together Nik and the head discussed the solution, its issues from both a security and implementation perspective, and how these might be mitigated. The head documented these and took time to review, while Nik and his team pulled together all their learning and began writing a protocol.

Then Nik heard back from the head and commissioner. They were happy with:

  1. The process undertaken — researching what users needed and considering safeguarding and information security requirements
  2. The decision — to use Zoom
  3. The rationale– their reasons for choosing Zoom
  4. The exit strategy — a plan to review the solution weekly and two alternative solutions (Microsoft Teams and Discord).

A new protocol for delivering online support

  • Evidence for delivering online support
  • Developing therapeutic relationships online
  • Risk and safeguarding
  • Session set-up do’s and don’ts
  • Guide to using Zoom
  • Guide to helping clients set-up the software

They’ve also taken their consent forms online, developed a protocol for phone support and are developing a protocol for digital open access youth work.

Someret’s CAMHS service also chose Zoom to deliver their therapeutic services.

“I don’t think we will go back to the world we were in. I expect online delivery to be part of how we deliver therapeutic work in the long-term future” — Nik Harwood

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Originally published by SCVO, a Catalyst Collaborator.


UK collaborative to bring a social purpose to the digital…


UK collaborative to bring a social purpose to the digital revolution. From CAST, City Bridge Trust, Comic Relief, DCMS, Esmée Fairbairn, Paul Hamlyn Foundation and The National Lottery Community Fund.

Joe Roberson

Written by

Tech for gooder. Bid writer. Content strategist. Helps charities/startups raise funds, build tech products, then sustain them. Writes useful stuff. More poetry.


UK collaborative to bring a social purpose to the digital revolution. From CAST, City Bridge Trust, Comic Relief, DCMS, Esmée Fairbairn, Paul Hamlyn Foundation and The National Lottery Community Fund.