The key worker project focuses on young people with learning disabilities, autistic young people, and their families. These groups face challenges when they head toward crisis. Where crises happen and help is not available locally, children and young people with a learning disability, autism or both may end up in tier 4 mental health settings that are not always well placed to meet their needs. A key worker can make sure the young person and their family get the right support at the right time. They can help make sure that local systems are responsive to meeting their needs in a holistic and joined up way.​

We want Dorset families to report improved access to the right support and improved experiences through key working, in line with the outcomes they have been co-produced with NHS England. Waves 1 and 2 of the keyworker pilots highlight that key working, in genuine partnership with families, is delivering these outcomes for families and helping avoid hospital admissions. The work done in other areas will help us develop a key working approach for Dorset.​

NHS Dorset secured funding from NHS England to be in wave 3 of the key working initiative. NHS England have confirmed Dorset will receive further funding for 2023/24. This amount is yet to be confirmed but is indicated to be an increase on previous figures.​

NHS Dorset will use the funding to develop a key working model that will add value and work alongside existing roles and functions within the system. We will implement a pilot operational model, and fully evaluate the model at various stages to ensure it is delivering the expected outcomes and benefits. ​

The Key Working Function is a response to the NHS England & NHS Improvement Long Term Plan (LTP). The LTP states that children and young people with a learning disability, autism or both, with the most complex needs will have a designated key worker. This must be done by 2023/24. It also meets the recommendations made by Dame Christine Lenehan.

Key worker project objectives and deliverables

Objectives: what do we want to make happen?

  • All children and young people with a learning disability, autism or both, in an inpatient setting, will have a named key worker by 2024​

  • To reduce the number of Local Area Emergency Protocol (LAEP) meetings and ensure a more timely and measured response to support

  • All children and young people in the community, with a learning disability, autism or both with the most complex needs, identified as being at the greatest risk (via dynamic risk assessment Care, Education and Treatment Reviews) will have a named key worker by 2024

Deliverables: what will we create to help us get there?

  • Proposal for the preferred model of key working for the system​

  • User guide for the key worker functions and the DSR​

  • A data protection assessment (DPIA) for the key worker host and service​

  • Updated agreement on information sharing. This will enable the keyworkers to operate across different areas​

  • Operational policies and procedures for the key worker service​

  • Contract for the delivery of the key worker service​

  • An agreed way for benefits to be measured​

  • A clear way to receive referrals and review cases, using the DSR

A graphic of a graph of the DRAFT high level delivery plan - keyworker initiative