YES: Youth sector Enabling Social prescribing

Investigating the impact of youth sector provision on young people’s mental health

Introduction and aims

Young people in need of mental health care face long waiting lists due to health services being stretched to the limit. Alternative routes to early intervention support could help alleviate these burdens, hence why there is an urgent need to explore these provisions. 

This project, funded by NCS Trust, aims to assess how one of such interventions – youth sector provision – impacts young people’s mental health (12 – 24 years old).  

Research methods  

To achieve the above aim, we will: 

  1. Conduct a rapid realist review of the evidence on the impact of youth sector provision (including enrichment, non-formal learning and youth work) on young people’s mental health. The researchers will work with stakeholders and a youth advisory group to identify the core areas of focus in the review. Employing the rapid realist review methodology will enable researchers to develop a programme theory of how youth sector provision impacts young people’s mental health i.e. to determine ‘what works for whom, how and in what context’. 
  2. Scope and design a social prescribing pilot, informed by the findings of the review. Working with the Social Prescribing Youth Network and a co-design group of youth social prescribing experts, we will identify innovative high-quality youth social prescribing projects, unpick what they are doing well and identify the current barriers and opportunities for delivering youth social prescribing. These insights will then inform the thinking to create viable pilot options to test the role of youth provision and enrichment activities in supporting young people’s mental health. This part of the project aims to build up practical evidence on the role of the youth sector within social prescribing programmes and policy.  


The project will culminate in a high-level logic model of the impact of youth provision on young people’s mental health, as well as pilot options to be tested and evaluated. These resources will be disseminated through reports, presentations, academic journal articles and youth-friendly resources, such as blogs. Research findings will also be distilled into a concrete set of recommendations for stakeholders.  


National Citizen Service   

Programme Area 

Complexity science



Principal Investigator

Dr Dan Hayes 


Prof Daisy Fancourt  


Social Prescribing Youth Network  



Key contact