arts and health mental health music practice example Social Prescribing trauma-informed

Unity Radio: prescribing a trusted voice

The scope of Unity Radio, how their collaboration with existing services works, and its role in supporting CYP mental health.

Relationships are at the heart of successfully working with children, young people and families, and of the models i-THRIVE and AMBIT (see this video for AMBIT in four minutes). In our attempts to broaden the offer, and as the provision of social prescribing grows, we caught up with Unity Radio in Manchester to learn about their innovative work with people who have not benefitted from, or who do not wish to engage with, statutory services.

Unity Radio broadcasts music, debates and discussions online to the Manchester region and engages young people to create and produce this content. One aim is to promote the wellbeing of young people. Alongside music, fashion and interviews with local artists, Unity Radio openly addresses issues relevant to young people. Past shows have raised awareness of the risks of substance use, running away from home, and associated issues such as child sexual exploitation. In the ‘Next Generation Youths’ project Unity Radio piloted a weekly programme focusing on Child Sexual Exploitation which was produced and presented entirely by the 23 local young people involved in the project.

Unity Radio helps to develop young people’s interests, by turning their interests into a means to engage and skills for life, through working towards an accredited Arts Award. Young people can also reflect and participate in positive debate in a peer to peer environment on key issues.

Lee Dinsdal, Director: “Prior to COVID-19 the ‘I Believe’ project was recruiting for a programme commissioned by Salford Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), to deliver workshops for young people who are facing challenges in their lives. These workshops enable vulnerable young people in Salford to access statutory services such as Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), and to explore and present reflections on their own experiences through working with Unity Radio facilitators.”

Online provision

During the pandemic, the ‘I Believe’ project enabled people to create and produce the online radio show from home, meeting three times a week to host shows and interview guests including the Deputy Mayor of Greater Manchester, Olympians, and NHS professionals. You can listen to these interviews here.

During online sessions, Unity Radio introduced an Improvisation Teacher to support with ‘radio presenter skills’, to encourage confidence and self-esteem. You can watch this clip to find out more and explore the Unity Radio improvisation game.

The impact of Unity Radio

In the ‘Next Generation Youths’ project, there was a significant reduction in the number of missing from home incidents. Lee and his fellow Directors see Unity Radio as an alternative way for young people who either do not need CAMHS or who are not engaging effectively with CAMHS to take part in supportive and wellbeing-promoting activities. Young people thus find support through trusted people, using their existing interests and building new skills. Watch this parent describe the impact for her son.

The Unity Radio team do not wish to replace clinicians but aim to work with young people experiencing emotional problems to help them harness their creativity and find ways to manage their mental health. Lee highlighted that everyone from the radio facilitators to the DJs at Unity are credible and skilled in what they do, and that holds positive sway with the young people.

Unity Radio teach young people radio broadcasting skills which can promote confidence, and facilitate their re-engagement with education and further skill development. Lee told us that they wanted to find ways to fill the achievement void in many of these young people’s lives through their participation in Unity Radio. They have also created up-skilling and talent development opportunities for young people through a host of urban arts and music workshop sessions.

Unity Radio and the THRIVE Framework

“As this project has shown, young people’s mental wellbeing can be successfully supported and improved by their own sense of value and confidence in being able to meet the challenges of a stressful society.  With a strong level of self-worth their resilience is increased thereby improving their own outcomes and prospects in life, without any high level interventions from specialist services.”

– Maria Slater, General Manager for CAMHS at Central Manchester University Hospitals Foundation Trust and lead for the Manchester and Salford i-THRIVE Accelerator site.

The work that Unity Radio carry out contributes to several different principles of THRIVE Framework (Wolpert et al., 2016). For example, Unity Radio contributes to ‘Thriving’: health and wellbeing promotion for young people by raising awareness and knowledge of risky behaviours and engaging them in positive, confidence-building projects.

Unity Radio is also an example of ‘Signposting’: effectively using the resources and expertise available in the community to support young people. The staff members at Unity can signpost to other local services and resources.

Unity Radio also provides a form of ‘Getting Help’: early intervention to young people who may be at risk of developing further problems. Lee says “If we work with a young person who has previously gone missing, we work to create diversionary activities to prevent that young person reaching a crisis in the future”.

Unity could also play a valuable role for children and young people who are considered to be ‘Getting Risk Support’. For example, there may be a young person who is currently unable to benefit from further interventions available in traditional CAMHS but who may still benefit from being involved in Unity Radio.

How does this work in collaboration with existing services?

Unity Radio directs funds to allow schools to identify young people who are not currently well-engaged in their studies, and invite them to work with Unity. Unity Radio work in collaboration with NHS agencies using self-referral and direct referrals. Formal referral pathways from local NHS providers, such as by working with a young person’s support worker or CAMHS clinician, have been effective. In a pragmatic move yielding an increase in referrals, Trafford Council has seconded a Unity Radio staff member from Unity to access their data and make calls to young people to increase engagement. 

Unity envision more multi-agency working in the future and have suggested how caseworkers or speech therapists could also host a show or be part of the team, sharing their clinical expertise in a relaxed environment. Communication and interviewing skills that are learned in Unity Radio projects could be part of speech and language therapy or peer-to-peer support.

CAMHS colleagues’ testimony of working with Unity Radio:

“Having future plans and hope for the future will ultimately be a part of shifting this YP’s mood and helping find an identity outside of their relationship with CAMHS. I would wholeheartedly support more online support from Unity Radio in the hope that it could reach out to other young people in a similar situation, particularly at a time where face to face support is being reduced elsewhere.”

Sample of feedback from young people attending Unity Radio:

‘It has been a good experience to meet new people and learn new skills’.

‘When I went to CAMHS they asked me if I wanted to get involved in a radio project and before I came to Unity, I wasn’t very social and I didn’t really speak to anyone. My confidence has grown and I speak to more people’.

You can listen more to how young people’s experience with the project here and here.

How are outcomes of the sessions measured?

Unity Radio uses many of the same routine outcome measures (ROMs) as CAMHS, including the Revised Child Anxiety and Depression Scale (RCADS). Closely working with partners, Unity are able to measure the real impact of our work on employability, A&E attendance, as well as reducing risky behaviours such as being missing from home and self-harming.

Thank you to Lee Dinsdale, Director of Unity Radio. If you would like further information, please contact Lee Dinsdale at If you would like a copy of the full evaluation of the NGY Project or the Liverpool Runaway Project email Lee.

Unity Radio:

Download the full implementation story on our website.

Training available:

Are you unsure how social prescribing applies to your role? Voluntary, community, health and care workers can join a free webinar with Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership @GM_HSC on 24th March to learn more, including how it fits into your practice. Sign up.

Arts for the Blues

This WHO-supported creative psychotherapy for depression is being scaled across the North West. Save these dates for (1) training and (2) engagement events:

Practice examples using music

Irene Taylor Trust

I'm a British clinical psychologist with a research background. I manage the Greater Manchester i-THRIVE Arts, Culture and Mental Health Programme, part of the national transformation of children's services. I also have an NHS clinical role in Lancaster and Morecambe working with children, young people and families (CAMHS). I began this blog in 2017 to record a WCMT Travelling Fellowship, from a research role at Arts for Health, Manchester Metropolitan University. I began clinical psychology training (DCLinPsy, Lancaster) in 2010, and studied the role of creativity in bipolar disorder, because of the known links, and partly due to my own experiences of creatively managing extremes of mood in adolescence and throughout my 20s. I have worked in several university psychology research departments including Manchester University in suicide prevention, the Spectrum Centre for Mental Health Research at Lancaster University (notable for service user expertise), and on the Dementia & Imagination research programme.

1 comment on “Unity Radio: prescribing a trusted voice


    Nice one Kat–

    a good read. Keep up the good work.



    Liked by 1 person

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