Introduction and Background
Funding: In October 2021, as part of the £120 million Recovery and Renewal Fund to support the delivery of the Mental Health Transition and Recovery Plan, the Minister for Mental Wellbeing announced £15 million funding for 2021/22 for a new Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund (the Fund) for adults to help tackle the impact of social isolation, loneliness and mental health inequalities made worse by the pandemic. In February 2022, an additional £6 million was provided for 2021/2022 to the Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund to meet the demand for local mental health and wellbeing projects, bringing total funding made available in 2021-22 to £21 million.
Delivery: The Fund is being delivered through a locally focused and co-ordinated approach via local partnership groups (building upon existing partnerships), working together to ensure that support to community based organisations is directed appropriately and in a coherent way. Each Third Sector Interface (TSI) has overall accountability for the spend at local level and working in collaboration with Integration Authorities and other existing local partnerships, leads in the coordination of the local plan and undertakes fund administration, capacity building support and local monitoring and evaluation.
Aims: The Fund is aimed at tackling priority issues within the Mental Health Transition and Recovery Plan - such as suicide prevention, social isolation and loneliness, prevention and early intervention - and addressing the mental health inequalities exacerbated by the pandemic including a particular focus on needs of ‘at risk’ target groups locally such as:
Women (particularly young women, and women and young women affected by gender based sexual violence); people with a long term health condition or disability; people who are or have been on the highest risk (previously shielding) list; people from a Minority Ethnic background; refugees and those with no recourse to public funds; people facing socio-economic disadvantage; people experiencing severe and multiple disadvantage; people with diagnosed mental illness; people affected by psychological trauma (including adverse childhood experiences); people who have experienced bereavement or loss; people disadvantaged by geographical location (particularly remote and rural areas); older people (aged 50 and above); and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) communities. For further information on the Year 1 of the Fund, please see the 2021/22 Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund National Fund Guidance.
This summary outlines national analysis of local monitoring and reporting data for Year 1 provided by the Third Sector Interfaces (TSIs) in their capacity as the lead partner for the delivery of the Fund.
Key Findings: Process – Fund delivery approach
- The Fund’s partnership approach has enabled existing partnerships to mature and has provided a platform for the development of new connections, with ambitions for a wider range of partners in Year 2.
- The report highlights a range of good practice in involving people with lived experience and engaging with target groups and notes room for improvement for Year 2.
- Positive feedback was provided by TSI’s on the effectiveness of their Fund management and the importance of the capacity building grant for TSIs to support accessibility of the Fund among less experienced groups.
- Time was a key challenge to delivery in Year 1.
Key Findings: Reach of funded projects
- Number of awards: 1842 grants have been awarded through the £21 million fund which has resulted in funding for 1775 projects.
- Diverse: A wide range of community mental health projects have been funded including those focused on sport and exercise, nature, social spaces, art, and therapeutic approaches, with a strong emphasis on the key themes of prevention and early intervention. Spaces and activities serving as a vehicle for human connection and communication underpin the vast majority of projects, with many projects having sprung up from within communities themselves. Annexes A and B of the report provide a rich set of project examples.
- Small grants: The majority (70%) of grants awarded were for grants of £10,000 or less, with only 1% of awards for grants of over £50,000.
- Local organisations: The vast majority of funding (86%) went to local organisations operating at either locality or local authority/TSI level.
- Smaller organisations: Most funding (93%) went to either small or medium sized organisations, all with incomes less than £1 million.
- Target groups and priority issues
- Awards were made to projects focused on a range of different target groups and priority themes, as outlined in the Fund guidance, as well as many others identified locally such as carers.
- The most common target groups or priorities were: social isolation and loneliness (1026 awards); people facing socio economic disadvantage (819); people with a long term health condition or disability (618); prevention (589); people facing severe and multiple disadvantage (535); and older people (482).
- The lowest number of awards were for projects focused on the following groups: refugees and those with no recourse to public funds (112); LGBTI communities (161); and people from a minority ethnic background (202).
- While these groups are often the most hard to reach, it will be important for Year 2 of the Fund to improve the accessibility of the Fund to these groups.
Key Findings: Learning and Reflections
- For Year 2 of the Fund, it will be important to build on the successes of Year 1 such as the building of sustainable partnerships and good practice shown in terms of TSI’s capacity building support to less experienced applicants.
- Key areas for improvement include:
- Engagement: There is a need for an increased emphasis on ensuring meaningful involvement of those with lived experience and improving levels of support to hard-to-reach target groups. The number of partners within local partnerships should be improved in some areas to support a broader reach of the Fund.
- Measuring impact: There is a need for deeper monitoring to help understand the impacts of the Fund on target groups whilst retaining a light touch evaluation process for applicants.
- Support: There is a need to ensure local partnerships feel supported to deliver Year 2 of the Fund. This includes ongoing support through the National Network meetings and bespoke support to TSIs where needed.
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