Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund for adults: evaluation

External evaluation of year one of the Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund for adults.

This document is part of a collection

4. Findings: Impact of the Fund

In Chapter 3 we described the approach to adminstering the Fund and the support and encouragement provided to organisations to apply for funding. In this chapter, we discuss the impact of that Fund as reported by those who responded to the project survey, those involved in the case study visits and from the TSI interviews and survey responses. A set of case studies highlighting the impact of the Fund are included throughout this section and are also available in a standalone document.


Our first consideration looks at the impact of the Fund on the local community mental health and wellbeing services and support and outcomes for those accessing the funded community supports. The impact on funded organisations and TSIs is then explored.

Impact of the Fund on local community supports available for improving people's mental health and wellbeing

As a result of the Fund, the organisations delivered mental health and wellbeing services and support that was newly created or built on existing services. Table 4.1 shows that the offer of new services had the highest response rate, followed closely by the extension of existing services.

Table 4.1: Projects' use of the funding (multiple responses)
  % of projects
Offer new mental health and wellbeing support 71%
Extend existing mental health and wellbeing support 65%
Work with a new type of beneficiary to support mental health and wellbeing 44%
Support staff or volunteers' skill development or resilience to address mental health and wellbeing 39%
Other, e.g. carry out consultation with the community, raise awareness of the support, strengthen collaboration 9%

Using project responses to the survey, the next section considers how these services contributed to:

  • Promoting and supporting the conditions for good mental health and wellbeing at population level
  • Providing accessible signposting to help, advice and support
  • Providing a rapid and easily accessible response to those in distress
  • Ensuring safe, effective treatment and care of people living with mental illness

Activities and services that promote and support the conditions for good mental health and wellbeing in the local population

In keeping with the primary focus of the Fund, all the projects identifed the preventative work they delivered as part of their services. When asked in the survey to provide examples of this support, numerous respondents highlighted the importance of first understanding their population's specific wants and needs. This was deemed "paramount" by the Dalry Community Mental Health and Wellbeing Project, whose survey on mental health and wellbeing not only established what the residents needed, but was also used to engage community members in the value of their work.

Creating connections

The projects frequently highlighted how they created a safe space for their beneficiaries to engage in open and supportive conversations. For example, Dunrossness Community Hall explained how they created an environment which was "eye opening, supportive, knowledgable and confidence building", in which women experiencing menopause could discuss their symptoms and support each other, without fear of judgement.

Central to many organisations was the creation of a sense of community and the promotion of peer support. The Women's Group, a constituted social group in East Dunbartonshire, highlighted that they created a system for the group to keep in touch and that this helped members to "maintain friendships and check-in on each other."

By providing an opportunity to chat with others in a relaxed and friendly setting, we have given them a space to gather, to enjoy each other's company and to reconnect with others after the pandemic and hard winter building connections and friendships to combat loneliness and isolation and increasing their mental resilience. Project

Through increasing people's social networks and strengthening support networks in the local community, organisations were able to "lower isolation" and alleviate some of the negative mental and physical health impacts from the pandemic. For instance, Menstrie Senior Citizens' Lunch Club reported that they provide:

"a social gathering for the elderly locally who have suffered over the period of covid" and that "the exercise class before their lunch helps to keep them fit".

Case Study - Fife Women's Tent

The organisation

Fife Centre for Equalities received a £10,000 grant from the Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund for adults, provided by Scottish Government, to deliver the project "Fife Women's Tent".

The project aimed to promote positive physical, emotional and mental wellbeing for disabled, minority ethnic, transgender and other marginalised women in Fife by encouraging them to make positive connections and support each other.

The funded project

The project was delivered in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and gave women the opportunity to engage with and support each other through a range of activities.

The project facilitated three live events across Fife. Activities at the events included taster sessions for yoga, live music events and a disco. 144 women benefited from these experiences. A fourth event took place to celebrate International Women's Day which saw some 80 women taking part.

Project participants also received peer-to-peer support through the development of an online Facebook-based platform. All content of the online and in-person events was member-led and events were open to all women who were interested in taking part. Project staff provided the support to organise the monthly online events, and the in-person events.

The impact

Feedback collated by staff was very positive and the project helped to address social isolation resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Participants reported engaging with a wide range of people they would not normally have had the opportunity to meet. The project gave the participating women more confidence to try new things and inspired them to continue with these activities at home.

The activities at the in-person events were very inclusive and helped people who might otherwise have self-excluded (for example due to a disability) to take part.

The project is still live online but there has been a natural reduction in participation levels as the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have reduced. The focus is now on posting interesting information which others can see and respond to.

Case study - Breaking Bread

The organisation

Kilmarnock Station Railway Heritage Trust took over and repurposed the local station buildings in 2014 and have been supporting the local community through social prescribing activities ever since.

The Breaking Bread project was set up in 2021 with funding from the Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund for adults, provided by Scottish Government, with match-funding from the Robertson Trust to tackle social isolation.

Funding was used to extend the project's activities and develop its offer. 51 people have benefited from it. Although families most at risk of poverty have not been targeted, the location of the project in an area of deprivation has led to their engagement.

The funded project

The project supports people with social isolation and anxiety through a six-week breadmaking programme. If additional support needs are identified, participants are referred to the Trust's counselling service.

Participants can access Breaking Bread through referrals from partners, including Community Connectors (based in GPs' surgeries and other agencies, or they can self-refer.

Self-referrals tend to be made after engaging with another of the Trust's activities or services. For example, one of the participants interviewed described how they had been attending mindfulness and acupuncture courses at the Trust when they saw an advertisement for Breaking Bread on their Facebook page.

The bread and other baked goods made during the course are sold in the Trust's café. Showing participants that people are willing to buy their goods was perceived to be an important mechanism through which confidence and self-esteem could be increased.

The impact

Project staff described how Breaking Bread had been life changing for some of its participants. It had provided a space in which people who are experiencing anxiety and isolation could meet and interact with other participants. In doing so, it had given them the confidence to move forward and join other groups or take on a volunteer role. Participants reiterated this:

"I wasn't getting out much at that time but it gave me the incentive to go out and something to look forward to."

They reported feeling more confident at the end of the course. Another unemployed participant described being offered a place on the project and how Breaking Bread had helped them:

"I got back to where I belong and went on to volunteer in the Trust."

Providing support and self-help

Individuals with ill mental health were also supported in numerous organisations by trained professionals. In Low Income Families Together (LIFT) for example, a mental health wellbeing keyworker was available to provide immediate support.

Others discussed how they offered courses and training programmes to support people to improve their mental and physical health. The Bridge Community Project's emotional lifejacket day course, was described as "full of practical support in how to manage your mental health" and A Positive Start CIC explained how they:

"have taught clients techniques that allows them to calm their nervous system so they are calmer and less stressed".

The support from the sessions has been like a boat being slightly off course on the sea. With a little help and support they can get back on course and develop more confidence and trust in themselves to make decisions about their decisions and direction in life. For others, it is like turning around a gigantic cruise ship, they have been off course for a long time, and turning that around is slow work, but none the less, they are gradually turning their lives around. The flexibility of being able to work in several modalities and also offer both short term and long-term support has worked very well in this setting. The different therapeutic tools have helped the clients, from assessment forms to establish a baseline evaluation, and to chart progress; supporting tools such as grounding techniques, breath work, EFT (emotionally focused therapy); and exercises such as writing their personal trauma timeline to help the client see the series of events which have led to where they are now and how they feel and behave now. Project

As well as supporting the project participants, a few organsations saw these benefits cascading into the community. The Community Renewal Trust explained that through teaching parents "resilience skills and skills useful to them providing a good home for their young children", they were able to share their acquired knowledge with peers in their wider community.

Case Study - Western Isles Cancer Care

The organisation

The Western Isles Cancer Care Initiative (WICCI) was set up in 2019 with funding from Macmillan Cancer Support. It operates from a base in Stornoway and supports people who are undergoing cancer treatment or are affected by cancer. The support offered reflects individual needs and can include, for example, financial assistance to meet the additional costs faced when undergoing treatment, alternative therapies and signposting to relevant services.

Prior to the pandemic, if a need was identified for counselling a counsellor from the mainland would be flown to Barra to provide face-to-face sessions. The costs of this were considerable with both travel and accommodation being required. The £10,000 Year 1 funding has been used to recruit an island-based counsellor. Year 2 funding has enabled the continuation of the service.

The funded project

People are referred by a healthcare professional or they can self-refer and they receive six counselling sessions (although the number provided varies according to need). The island-based counsellor has enabled the Initiative to provide counselling every week from the Stornoway base. To ensure equitable provision across the Western Isles, online sessions are also provided and a mainland counsellor still travels to Barra when required. At the end of Year 1, 48 counselling sessions had been provided to 16 people.

The counselling service supports people to process the emotions experienced during cancer treatment or following the loss of a loved one. Timely access to support is essential for WICCI service users and having a counsellor on the island means that support can be provided when it is needed.

"People dealing with cancer, they go into the NHS system, have a fantastic treatment and then when they come home, as part of the recovery journey, they're just adjusting or coming to terms with the changes and effects of this....they sort of then, probably even more so on the island, feel quite isolated and that's where the support we provide is really good for covering the wellbeing of people going through this." (Project staff)

The impact

Project staff described how the counselling supports people to come to terms with their circumstances and adjust to the changes brought about by cancer:

"Most people coming in say that they're tense, emotional, apprehensive and alone but after the sessions, they feel comforted, refreshed and stronger."

For a local health care professional, the counselling had "made a huge difference" in enabling their own service to offer a "support mechanism" for patients. Without it, there would be limited support for those struggling to cope with cancer.

An independent evaluation of the service found that beneficiaries felt listened to and better able to cope with their circumstances. Anxiety, depression and stress were also reported to have been reduced. A beneficiary explained how the counselling had helped them to process the emotions after their cancer treatment:

"It was a safe place for me to go to and discuss things that I didn't want to discuss with loved ones, you don't want to put that burden on feels like a lot of things have been stripped away from you. Going there I felt I was able to express how I was feeling about that and be able to get it all out in a safe environment." (Beneficiary)

Case Study - The Stove Network - Open Hoose

The organisation

The Stove Network is an arts and community organisation based in Dumfries. They use creativity to bring together people and ideas, inspire and support new community-led projects, grow opportunities and celebrate local places and people.

The Stove received £29,750 from the Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund for adults, provided by Scottish Government, to develop an existing pilot project, Open Hoose. The project supports people to come together in different ways to promote mental wellbeing and social inclusion.

The funded project

10 groups were established (or re-formed post-Covid) through a community call-out for local group activity ideas and they represented a diverse mix of interests and involved a wide range of local people in terms of age (16-75) gender, sexual orientation and health conditions. The Stove's community café and meeting rooms provide a space for groups to meet and run different activities. A team of Community Event Producers provide tailored support to help the groups deliver their activities which can range from mentorship and signposting to governance development and marketing. Project activities include:

  • Free Improvisation: Run by musicians and open to those who wanted to improvise and compose
  • Queer Club: LGBTQIA+ activists met to advocate for the community and established Dumfries Pride
  • Climate Kitchen: Meet to discuss the climate crisis & identify solutions
  • Doughlicious: A breadmaking club that used the café to support people to make healthy bread;
  • De-Growth Club: that met to discuss alternative living that was socially and environmentally conscious
  • River Nith Conversation: that focused on how to protect the local river;
  • Doon Gamers: Role playing card gaming club that met monthly for gaming sessions in the venue;
  • Café Cuts: A lo-fi DJ evening on Saturday nights;
  • Repair Shop: that repaired, fixed and buillt things from older things; and
  • WRITE!: A monthly creative writing workshop.

The impact

Open Hoose was initially set up as a pilot project before Covid-19 but the pandemic drove activities online. The monies from the Fund enabled the project to restart face-to-face group activities in a safe way. The different activities offered through the project have created new connections, enabled participants to build trusted relationships and addressed social isolation:

"It is about that community spirit and one of the things that I really like is seeing those people .... basically making friends and chatting and knowing that we've been part of connecting those dots. It's all about reconnecting the community." (Project Staff Member)

Other impacts of the project included:

  • Increased capacity within the local community to support and promote good mental health and wellbeing: Grassroots community groups have been set up and/or developed to address specific issues, connect local people and meet their wellbeing needs.
  • Organisational development: The funding has enabled Open Hoose to build upon a pre-Covid pilot to expand its services and increase the accessibility of the venue by investing in more appropriate lighting and an audio loop. The Stove has also used the learning from the project to develop its aims and "revolutionise" how its community space is used to benefit the local community.

Activities and services that increase access to help, advice, and support

There were several ways that organisations provided support or signposted their beneficiaries to these activities and services:

  • through staff/volunteers with the skills to provide that individual support
  • through staff and volunteers with the knowledge of where to signpost to other services
  • by working with organisations to provide support
  • through promotion and awareness raising activities

There were examples of volunteers who were trained to sensitively work with vulnerable people, like at Hope Garden SCIO and Positive Start CIC where weekly one to one support is provided for 12 months, working holistically with the individual to improve their mental and physical health.

Ensuring staff and volunteers had the knowledge about relevant local and national organisations to signpost to, like at Balmaclellan Community Trust, meant they could then signpost and refer to other organisations with the relevant expertise.

Projects identified that providing accessible signposting was often strengthened through collaboration with other organisations. For example, West Calder and Harburn Community Development Trust explained how their project worked with numerous local stakeholders:

"We work with local groups, partner organisations and services to maximise knowledge and asset sharing in our area while strengthening links and referral pathways with GP/NHS services and working proactively and collaboratively with West Lothian wide initiatives".

Families were signposted and referred to a range of support agencies including Abernecessities (clothes, equipment, toys, games, books); Cfine (food bank, financial advice); Somebody Cares (food bank, furniture, household equipment, toiletries, clothes, toys, games, books); Grampian Womens Aid (domestic abuse); Cyrenians (homelessness, domestic abuse); Shelter (housing, homelessness); Grampian Regional Equality Council. We supported families to attend meetings and court hearings. In addition to this very practical help, we have provided encouragement, reassurance and emotional support to families who are living in a situation which is challenging, stressful and harmful to the health and wellbeing of both parents and their children Project

Advice and support was also provided through specialist sessions and training which sometimes involved collaboration with other organisations. Greener Peebles for instance organised "well-being skill share sessions" in partnership with Health in Mind.

Case Study - East Renfrewshire CAB

The organisation

East Renfrewshire Citizen Advice Bureau (ERCAB), which is part of the Scotland-wide network of citizens advice bureaux, has specialist advisers who offered assistance with homelessness/evictions, debt & money advice, completion of benefit application & appeal forms, benefit appeal representation, Patient Advice Service, and an Armed Services Advice Project.

The advice they provide is free, independent, confidential, impartial and available to everyone.

ERCAB received £31,040 from the Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund for adults, provided by the Scottish Government, to deliver a community-based project to support people experiencing mental health problems with the aim of preventing them from experiencing disadvantages.

The project provided holistic advice, representation and advocacy services (welfare rights and financial inclusion).

The funded project

A specialist wellbeing adviser was recruited to provide advice to those ERCAB clients experiencing mental health; and where appropriate and within resources, provided a casework support service to those clients who presented with more acute mental health issues.

As part of this service, advisers provided information, support and, where appropriate, representation on money management, debt-related problems and social security entitlements. They also assisted with the development of practical money management skills and signposted them to other local services where appropriate.

Service user with mental health issues were referred to the service via a range of partner organisations including the East Renfrewshire Council Community Care Team (Mental Health); and the NHS Advocacy Service. Some clients also self-referred to the service.

The project was accessible through all CAB services in East Renfrewshire and 218 clients benefited from this service.

The impact

At the end of the project's first year, the adviser role generated £516,267 in client financial gain (CFG) for service users with mental health issues - for every £1 invested, £12.90 was generated and this financial gain came from:

  • successful Personal Independence Payment (PIP) applications
  • successful Universal Credit (UC) applications
  • access to Adult Disability Payment (ADP)
  • small percentage generated through ESA applications - a benefit for clients too sick to work due to ill health or disability. To be eligible for ESA however, clients need to have requisite National Insurance contributions and clients with longstanding mental health challenges often did not have the required contributions to be eligible for this benefit.

This is particularly important as awards for disability benefits based on mental ill-health are less likely to be successful than applications based on physical disability.

"It was a great help - without it I would have struggled as when I was getting my treatment I was on half pay." Beneficiary

ERCAB continued to operate this project through a successful Year 2 funding award.

Several projects like Singergie, discussed the importance of effectively publicising the services of other community groups to their members to ensure that the diverse needs of their community can be better met. This sometimes involved helping to develop skills to access the support. As numerous advice services and distributors of information operate online, Stoneyburn and Bents Future Vision Group offered technology training, in collaboration with OPAL:

"for those who needed help with their mobile phone, iPad or tablet meaning they felt more confident and comfortable using this and finding information they required."

GP practice is a key to signposting, and word of mouth in a small village is positive. We also place articles in our local newsletter to spread our news about Hub operations. Project

Some more specialised organisations carefully tailored their services to their clients, such as Deaf Links who not only provided specialist advocacy support to Deaf and sensory impaired people, but used their knowledge of the barriers experienced by the deaf community to aid mainstream service providers to improve their accessibility.

Further case studies highlighting the provision of mental health and wellbeing support are outlined below.

Case Study - Edinburgh Women's Aid

The organisation

Edinburgh Women's Aid (EWA) was founded in 1973. It is a charity set up by women for women and children who are at risk of domestic abuse. It provides them with a safe and friendly base to turn to for support, information and refuge accommodation.

Their staff team had observed an escalation in mental health issues, particularly since the Covid-19 pandemic, and were finding that mental health needs were preventing their service users from concentrating fully on the risk issues for themselves and their children.

They received £19,662 from the Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund for adults, provided by Scottish Government, to develop a specialist mental health support role.

The funded project

EWA wanted to support women's mental health with the funding. They recruited a Mental Health Advocacy and Therapy Worker who provided participants with six therapy sessions each. 33 participants accessed the service in Year 1.

There was a high demand for the service and a waiting list was in place (although shorter than for other NHS services in the area). Women categorised as high priority were supported immediately and those on the waiting list were referred to locality-based support workers whilst they waited for their therapy sessions.

The service was informed by discussions with service users with lived experience. The therapeutic support provided was highly tailored to take account of the abuse issues that the women had encountered. Support was also provided to EWA staff, for example, providing them with training on what to do if someone presents saying that they are suicidal.

The impact

The project received consistent positive feedback from service users. Some of the women they supported had previously received therapy, but they reported that because this therapy was domestic-abuse informed it was more beneficial and it helped them to understand that the abuse was not their fault. Staff described service users as having improved self-esteem and being more empowered. Another service user described how the therapist taught her coping mechanisms for panic attacks that she was experiencing which made them easier to control and work through. The service user felt that the therapy had stopped her from becoming housebound:

"I would be unable to control the panic attacks I was having and the fear of having one out of the house would have stopped me going out of the house completely. She gave me the confidence to go for a walk every day and encouraged me to walk a bit further each time".

Staff within EWA reported that as a result of the project they are having more success in engaging women on a range of other issues, and a reduction in repeat presentations to the service as a result of the project. They described the women as more receptive to support due to the therapy they have received. This allowed staff to help the women to make better decisions regarding key issues such as leaving the perpetrator, and housing.

Case Study - A Bite and A Blether

The funded project

In partnership with East Dunbartonshire Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), and other third sector organisations, CEARTAS (a registered charity providing independent advocacy support to adults), created the project A Bite and a Blether which received funding through Scottish Government's Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund for adults.

The project was developed as a response to social issues, particularly around loneliness and isolation during and following the Covid-19 pandemic. The organisations involved had noted that GPs were referring high numbers of people with mental health issues and concerns about social isolation. The project involved working collaboratively with local residents to support their wellbeing and provided them with opportunities to meet in a group setting.

201 people were supported including lone parents; a disabled person; families with 3+ children; minority ethnic families; families with young children; mothers aged under 25 and a few members that are carers, all of which are priority groups within the Best Start, Bright Futures tackling child poverty delivery plan.

The impact

The project has created routes into independent advocacy, has resulted in new partnerships and during the winter months the project also became a "warm space" for people affected by the cost-of-living crisis. Service users and staff reported a range of impacts including providing participants with someone who listens and who can understand them; making them feel safe, valued and respected; people feeling supported to face challenges; participants having increased confidence; participants having an increased sense of wellbeing; and participants feeling more socially connected. Service users were very positive about the impact the project has had:

"You meet new friends, and the food is absolutely delicious, homemade soup and lots of sandwiches and biscuits, and everything's just… thumbs up. My family like to see me going because I was in a mess before, I just sat in the living room looking at four walls and that is not good for you. I need people in my life. All kinds of people. I just love it, that's all I'm saying!" (Beneficiary)

"Such a beautiful venue and catering. C said when I took her home that she felt uplifted and so happy after her day out." (Carer)

Staff were also very positive about the impact of the project, reporting that "it is a really good outlet both nutritionally, as no one has to pay for food, and emotionally as a lot of the people who attend are stuck indoors. It gives people a purpose, a structure, a routine, and friendships are made."

The project worked with other groups and organisations to gather information to be shared with group members so that they were well informed about where to access the appropriate support they need. The project hoped to continue to develop and expand.

Rapid and accessible services for those in distress

A minority of organisations delivered rapid and accessible services for those in distress, whilst the majority of organisations offered accessible services to those in distress.

Projects explained that they provided services throughout the day, e.g. Caledonia Funeral Aid's services was available five days per week. Others like Horizons Recovery Cafe offered a drop-in CAB service which they described as:

"extremely useful to get quick and easily accessible advice to relieve distress maintain wellbeing and prevent suicide".

Another project used the Low-level Vulnerable Person Database (which they accessed through Police Scotland) to develop an earlier and more rapid response to reduce distress and anxiety for people who are in crisis situations, preventing escalation in the future.

Whilst there were no examples of projects operating a 24-hour service, several organisations, including Independent Living Support and Neil's Hugs, ensured they were contactable through multiple different platforms (e.g. phone, text, email, drop in) so as to be accessible for anyone in a crisis.

Case Study - Neil's Hugs Foundation

The organisation

Neil's Hugs Foundation was set up in 2016 to support families and friends affected by suicide. Since then, the charity has developed and grown and in addition to supporting those who are struggling to cope with the attempted or completed suicide of a loved one, now provides support to those dealing with mild to moderate mental ill health. They use the principles of Time, Space and Compassion to deliver the support.

They received a grant of £50,336 from the Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund for adults, provided by Scottish Government, to expand their suicide prevention activities for people bereaved through suicide and people with mental ill health with a particular focus on young people and the LGBTQI+ community.

The funded project

The project delivers a range of activities including 1-to-1 support; befriending (using volunteer befrienders) support groups for people who have lost someone to suicide and for those with mild mental ill health; and signposting to other support services.

Their team of 18 trained volunteers are supported by the development worker and as well as providing support, they work with partners like schools, football clubs and the local college to widen their reach. For example, they work in partnership with West Lothian College where they hold weekly Cuppa and Chat drop-ins during term time. They also have attended the local LGBTQ+ support group "Glitter Cannons" and provided training in partnership with See Me.

They have also worked with police officers who now carry a Neil's Hugs information card and can offer it to people at risk of suicide; and tattoo artists who can identify signs of self-harming and so they are hoping to train them in suicide prevention and mental health support.

The impact

The project has supported more than 100 people during Year 1 and staff explained the value of their service in providing a safe space and a listening ear.

"We get people in who nobody else is listening to. We help them to understand the positives in their lives" (Project staff member)

Staff emphasised that the project provided a lifeline to many of the people it supports with one beneficiary declaring that "Without Donna I would be dead."

The money from the Fund created additional capacity which has enabled them to work with more volunteers, and as a result they have been able to support more people through their range of activities, addressing their mental health needs early before they reach a crisis point.

The funding has also enabled them to develop their approaches to monitoring and evaluation so that the organisation is better placed to provide robust evidence of the impact of their interventions.

Case Study - Survivors Unite

The organisation

Set up in 2013, the charity supports adult survivors of sexual abuse. It offers one-to-one counselling, peer support and peer support groups. The charity offers unlimited counselling so survivors can access the service for as long as they need to. Counselling can be accessed via NHS referrals or self-referrals. To date 108 people have been supported and there is an active caseload of 36.

Funding from multiple sources, including the Lottery's Community Fund, Scottish Government and the Robertson Trust, covers core, staff and project costs. The £80,000 awarded by the Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund for adults, provided by Scottish Government, was used to increase the capacity of its counselling service and establish pre-support provision for those on the waiting list.

The funded project

Those accessing support are described by staff as some of the 'most complex and profoundly affected people in the community', some of whom are still experiencing abuse.

The Fund's monies have been invested into the counselling service to increase weekly provision by 30 hours and counselling is now offered four days a week (services were previously available only one day per week).

By increasing the capacity of the counselling service, the Fund is estimated to have enabled 20 additional people to access support. As part of the new pre-support provision, an additional 20 people on the waiting list are receiving regular check-ins from a counsellor to safeguard their wellbeing and provide an opportunity to identify those at significant risk of harm and triage people when needed.

The impact

By increasing the capacity of the service, the Fund has led to a reduction in the counselling waiting list from approximately two years to six months. People receiving this counselling support have a reduced their risk of suicide and self-harming and are being helped to move on from complex trauma.

A recent evaluation of Survivors Unite showed the transformational change that this service brings. For some, it is life-saving. The unlimited counselling offer was identified as particularly important and meant that people were able to move forward at their own pace. For project staff interviewed, the service did not offer 'unicorns and rainbows' but a sense of hope that people could lead 'a meaningful life after complex trauma.'

Although the Fund's monies were invested into counsellors' time, this had the indirect effect of enabling the charity to re-direct other funding to expand its activities. This led to it being able to offer a range of different projects (e.g. art, meditation, online safety) and also explored the provision of alternative therapies. Project staff felt that there was now an increased sense of community.

Shorter waiting times for services and aid before receiving other support were also identified as accessible responses to those in distress. The Borders Carers Centre for instance offered professional support while individuals remained on the waiting list for counselling services. Some organisations also highlighted how making the physical space calming and easily accessible was essential in alleviating distress.

In their responses to this aspect of support, the focus for many projects was a slower, gradual approach when responding to distress, so that they could build trust and respond to the individual's needs, as explained by Burnfoot Community Futures:

"while it is immediate it isn't rapid. People come to us and we adopt a gradual and friendly approach to participation, increasingly offering more options and betterment".

Activities and services that ensure safe, effective treatment and care of people living with mental illness

As described earlier, the majority of projects provided support to help promote good mental health or signpost people to other advice and services and only a minority of projects specifically supported people with mental illness.

We do not offer treatment or care, but work alongside those who do. The treatment we offer is more by way of access to nature, peer support, sign posting and helping people to develop their own tools for health and wellbeing. Project

These projects recognised that their work was often complementing treatments or care being delivered by health professionals.

Nevertheless, there were examples of projects working with health professionals to provide treatment and/or care. For example, Eòlas Outdoor Learning used their funding to work outdoors with adults who either had a mental health condition/mental illness poor mental health or who were disadvantaged by social isolation. They engaged participants in simple activities and raised awareness of the benefits of being outdoors and some sessions were enhanced by a mental health worker - "some of the longer term groups were delivered with a qualified mental health support worker/counsellor in attendance and he was on hand to offer group or private advice to those adults".

Case Study - Forget Me Not

The organisation

Forget-Me-Not Club is a small charity which provides dementia support across Aberdeenshire. They have a specialist resource centre in Banchory providing respite care which includes a range of weekly activities including crafts, exercise and live entertainment, as well as a healthy two-course lunch for members.

They received £6,000 from the Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund for adults, provided by Scottish Government, to deliver a pop-up sessions which provide a stimulating environment for those living with dementia and respite, advice and information for families.

The funded project

The Aboyne project was set up to address a lack of services for families living with dementia in the area.

They built relationships with local organisations and held an open event to raise awareness of their sessions and to raise awareness of mental health and dementia. The project funds enabled them to purchase new equipment including curling poles and shuttles, and they put together a 'mobile kitchen' to take to the venue each time they hosted a pop-up session.

Existing staff were used to deliver the new session and they also recruited a local volunteer who was a former mental health nurse and had support from a college student.

They visited all families interested in accessing support and discussed their individual needs and interests. Involving people with lived experience was an important component of the project and helped to shape the pop-up sessions.

The impact

Local families had a weekly session that provided mental and physical stimulation to participants with dementia through activities, social interaction and lunch. Carers and staff reported that if the project did not exist, participants would be at home, with limited social contact beyond family members, and would be socially isolated.

"Mum really enjoyed herself on Monday and really keen to make sure it can happen again. I worried the plan would not fall into place, but it did and worked. Thank you so much for making her so welcome, she is really enjoying spending time with you." (Carer)

The support to family members has improved their mental health and ability to look after the person living with dementia and themselves.

The project also raised awareness about dementia and addressed misconceptions, trying to make the local community more dementia-friendly. For example, they spent time talking to the emergency services to ensure they were able to respond in a more informed way to people who phone in. They run fundraising activities and have a visible presence through their clothing bank.

There were also a few projects, like Maggie's who used the funding to provide psychological support for people with cancer and their carers. The Clinical Psychologist worked with individuals, couples, families as well as group attendees at courses and workshops to provide therapeutic techniques to improve emotional wellbeing:

"He has been helping people to come to terms with their diagnosis and its effect on their future; to overcome feelings of anxiety and depression and make it easier for them to focus on their treatment, recovery, living with incurable cancer, and adjusting to death".

Trained staff, volunteers, and peers

Training of volunteers and staff was mentioned as critical to providing services that ensure safe, effective treatment and care. The TLC Befriending Project reported that they "had a rigorous recruitment process, and they are working towards accrediting our core volunteer training to ensure that our befrienders have a high standard of knowledge, along with the excellent supervision from staff." As well as providing the appropriate training for staff and volunteers, some organisations conducted peer training sessions.

The grant enabled us to fund the extension of hours of existing staff, under a new contract, in order to support the new Skills for Health Social Prescribing services. This enabled the development of the service, development of relevant procedures, training staff, launching the project and devising a monitoring process. The Fund also helped the team to liaise with existing volunteers and socially prescribed patients, to develop trust and ensure repeat visits and develop further volunteering opportunities. Project

Saheliya explained how the women they supported learned how to carry out mental health first aid for themselves and their families, becoming:

"sources of advice and support in their communities, and help to challenge the stigma of even talking about mental illness".

One unnamed organisation explained that several of their group members took part in peer tutor training with the Recovery College, so that they were able to regularly support other members who may have faced mental health challenges. Emphasis on peer support and building community was also mentioned, with the Argyll & the Isles Coast & Countryside Trust (ACT) stating that their project created:

"a safe, supportive environment, with healthy topics of discussion and range of meaningful and fun activities to assist people to self-manage and also care for each other".

Impact of the Fund on people's mental health and wellbeing

Funded projects' descriptions of the services and support highlight the range of provision and this section looks at the impact on those they supported.

In the survey, the organisations were asked how many beneficiaries were supported by their funded project. Organisations responded in different ways, some provided a specific number, some provided a range, e.g. 35-40 or 300+ and others provided the number of interactions. Due to these different types of responses, it is only possible to use the specific numbers provided to identify a lower range of people who received support.

On that basis at least 97,369 people were supported by the 660 projects that completed the survey. This is a third of all projects and on that basis the true number of people supported is likely to be over 300,000.

Involvement in service design and delivery

The organisations were asked how participants and beneficiaries were involved in the design and delivery of their projects. Many examples were provided and ranged from lived experience-led organisations to working with beneficiaries to shape day-to-day project activities or influence future service developments at a strategic level.

The project, from concept to development and through to delivery has been led by people with lived experience of mental health issues. Project

In these projects, where the voices of beneficiaries were heard and respected, service and support programmes were tailored to their needs. This active involvement created a sense of ownership and empowerment amongst the participants, which in turn fostered a collaborative and inclusive community.

As this was our first targetted mental health and wellbeing project, individuals with lived experience were unknown to us, however during the project, individuals with lived experience became known to us and informed and contributed to ongoing sessions. Project

Many projects continued to develop the involvement of people with lived experience in their design and delivery, helping to make the services and support more relevant and appropriate.

Outcomes for beneficiaries

The organisations provided many examples of how their funded projects had positive impacts on their beneficiaries' mental health and wellbeing. Some of this was based on their observations of the changes and some was based on feedback from participants. Positive outcomes were identified for a vast array of project activities, from art therapy sessions, women's drop-in groups, inter-generational pilot project, weekly cafes, music therapy services, outdoor activities, food projects, older men's groups, LGBTQI+ social and cultural activities, sports, creative and practical skills training, social clubs, food projects or parent support groups.

Our Clinical Psychologist has supported a 17yr old girl, over ten sessions, whose father had aplastic anaemia and received a stem cell transplant. The transplant left her father with no immune system, so she had to isolate completely from friends during the pandemic, and when she did attend school, she was in a room entirely on her own. This left her feeling completely isolated, with anxiety and panic attacks. Our psychologist worked with her so that she now has the tools to control and prevent panic attacks, and he has also helped her to build skills to manage and reframe her anxious thinking patterns. She was able to come into the centre without wearing a mask for the first time in 2 years. She has started socialising again with her friends and feels safe enough to start enjoying life again. Project

These changes ranged from positive effects on socialisation and physical activity to skills development and emotional support. The projects' services have led to a reduction in loneliness, increased confidence, improved self-esteem and improved ability to manage mental health and wellbeing.

Our members highlighted the importance of our support to their mental health and reducing isolation and loneliness. Our outdoor walks have been particularly helpful in connecting people and allowing them the opportunity to talk about their feelings, support others, encourage friendship and have some fun while enjoying nature. Feedback from members continued to highlight the importance of being able to come together and the positive impact this has had on their mental health. Our members have given the following feedback in the last 12 months:

"[This project] brought me out of myself, I wouldn't be so far along in my recovery if it wasn't for the group".

"It is great to be with others who have a brain injury and its just for us". Project

They also provided opportunities to establish social connections, for creative expression, hold discussions around health and provide necessary support for mental health issues, enhancing the quality of life for beneficiaries.

Case Study - Art Angel

The organisation

For 27 years, Art Angel has supported people with mental health problems to get better and stay well through active participation in the arts.

Art Angel is run for, and by, people with lived experience of mental ill health, offering a long-term programme of arts activities in a welcoming non-clinical environment, mentored by experienced staff.

People are often referred to Art Angel following a mental health diagnosis and the experience of being involved in and enjoying the therapeutic nature of art helps participants to build their confidence and self-esteem and supports their recovery towards a hopeful future.

The funded project

The Communities Mental Health & Wellbeing Fund for adults, provided by the Scottish Government, was used to fund a six-month collaboration with the Botanical Gardens in Dundee. This meant that the Young Person's Group could meet weekly and access the different spaces in the Gardens - glasshouses, the education centre, poly-tunnels, and allotments.

Within this outdoor setting, the young people were able to use the natural environment to stimulate their creativity and support their recovery. The Gardens became a base for sketching, painting, writing and sculpture.

The experience

During the six-month period, 52 young people aged 18-25 years, benefited from the project.

Although they had always lived in Dundee, for many of the participants it was their first encounter with the Botanics. It was also a first for:

  • travelling by bus to that part of the city
  • interacting with members of the public as they produced their creations
  • experiencing the outdoors in this way.

The project culminated in a two-week art exhibition in the Botanics where they shared their work with family, friends, and the general public.

The impact

The staff that supported the group explained that the setting was a powerful conduit for creativity. They described how the young people gradually became more confident and comfortable in their surroundings. This resulted in more ambition in their artistic creations and increased their self-esteem. Young people 'came out of their shell' and were less socially isolated than before.

"I felt calmer and more focused there, it gave me a boost to be able to work outside and to be brave about what I could achieve. I felt more relaxed and started to open up more." (Young person)

Young people's views

"I liked being outside and being able to talk to the staff about things I was worried about. Somehow being there made that easier. Other people in the group really helped me too. Having the exhibition made me feel proud of what I had done."

"I was really feeling low when this project came up, it was good to do something different, feel supported and not be alone."

Case Study - Pachedu

The organisation

PACHEDU was established in 2016 to address social isolation amongst minority ethnic groups in Renfrewshire and to support them to be more visible and pro-active in shaping their communities. The charity works with diverse minority ethnic groups to promote diversity, tolerance and dignity for humanity.

"There is a desperate need for support for ethnic minorities, for new arrivals into the country there are a lot of issues around cultural shock, they are faced with a lot of barriers and no knowledge of what services are available to them, we reach out, we get to know them, we are the bridge trying to make everything work."

The funded project

The project was developed in response to a need to support service users to overcome various mental health and wellbeing challenges that had escalated during the pandemic. It received £9000 in Year 1 of the Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund for adults, provided by Scottish Government. Recruiting a qualified minority ethnic mental health practitioner was central to understanding the needs of service users and to build trusting relationship with participants. They delivered a range of activities and events that brought people together in a very engaging way, for example-cycling, walks, bowling, a "Rediscovering Africa" event, and virtual information sessions/workshops and a gardening project at Sherwood Greenlaw Church.

Over 250 beneficiaries were supported by the project and more than 70 people received resource materials via email. The project worked in partnership with Renfrewshire Health & Social Care Partnership (HSCP) Health and Wellbeing team, Renfrewshire Anti stigma Alliance, Recovery across mental health (RAMH), Engage Renfrewshire, Renfrewshire Affordable credit Alliance, Department for Pensions & Work (DWP), Poverty Alliance, and various organisations providing support for mental health, loneliness and isolation, wellbeing, and community connections.

The impact

Loneliness and isolation were reduced among service users, and the project improved participants' confidence. Staff reported that many are now happier to talk about their life challenges with others and are more likely to seek support when faced with challenges.

  • 20 service users were given employability support through training, information sharing and networking, and had the opportunity to take part in volunteering activities.
  • 19 service users were signposted to the Hardship Fund scheme managed by Renfrewshire Council, and received a grant of £100 each.
  • 8 volunteers joined the Pachedu team as part of the project and
  • 4 students from Glasgow University were able to take part in work placements with the project.

"During COVID I was depressed and stressed. I was scared to ask questions and had no confidence and then I found Pachedu. I could discuss how I was feeling and realise it was quite normal. I learnt that I could get help with job applications, food banks, and coping mechanisms for my anxiety I was feeling." (Project participant)

Our project has established a routine safer space which is intergenerational and inclusive of different sexes, genders, spoken language groups, and cultures across the Sudanese diaspora in the city. Participants are telling us that this is rare and that they are having new conversations with people whom they have lived alongside for years, learning new things about generational differences and their challenges. Through our 1:1 work some participants have entered into discussions about previously taboo subjects and urgent need for professional support. While offering creative support through this project, we have given advice and signposted to local mental health and wellbeing support services including Carers Trust, CAMHS, Young Minds, Women's Aid and Victim Support. All participants have developed self-advocacy skills through Digital Media skills workshops, to the point that original, personally and communally relevant material is being created routinely by individuals and small groups on themes that have been previously taboo and under-addressed; e.g. the impact of racism within schooling, numerous stigmas navigated by different generations within the community. Project

Impact of the Fund on local organisations

Alongside the provision of services and support, there were other impacts on the organisations that received funding for their projects. The next section looks at some of the wider benefits to these organisations.

Increased organisational capacity and capability

The funding enabled projects to extend their mental health and wellbeing supports or create new ones; and to increase their knowledge and understanding of mental health and wellbeing.

In the earlier chapter, we described the training and support provided by the TSIs and their skills and expertise have helped to build capacity and facilitate networking and awareness raising amongst a wide range of third sector organisations.

Based on the project survey, the third largest group of organisations (12% of respondents) had an income of up to £5000 and these small grassroots organisations acknowledged how they benefitted from the range of support on offer from the TSIs. It was described as a key factor in helping organisations to apply for funding and then deliver their projects.

We're a very small charity, so this process has afforded us the opportunity to develop our understanding of applying for and administering grant funds, as well as the evaluation process. Project

This translated into some organisations with staff and volunteers who were better equipped and more knowledgeable which resulted in services and support that was more appropriate and relevant to their local communities needs.

Training being delivered by the TSI such as suicide awareness and having some training on mental health improvements has increased understanding amongst our wonderful volunteers. Project

Better understanding of local need in relation to mental health and wellbeing

TSIs and projects acknowledged that the processes and systems to deliver the Fund had enhanced the profile of mental health and wellbeing and increased understanding of what was needed at a local level. The projects recognised that by working with people with lived experience they were better placed to support the mental health and wellbeing needs of their local communities.

From delivering this project our understanding and awareness of mental wellbeing needs of our community has been enhanced. Our greatest learning is that the process of community cultural change is a staged and lengthy process that will need a substantially longer term plan. Project

New networks and partnerships

In many TSI areas funded organisations were encouraged to, or brought together to create new networks and collaborations.

Partnership working can be messy and slow but it is definitely worthy to broaden the impact. The LGBTQ+ community holds a great strength and unity rarely seen in other sectors. TSI are great enablers to provide rapid support where is needed. Project

Whilst partnership work was acknowledged as complex and challenging, for many projects these opportunities to work together and widen their impact was an important enabler for the delivery of their services.

We have developed a successful collaborative between three local partners, providing geographically coordinated approach to provision of supportive services in our locality. We have built on existing local services and structures, shared knowledge, experience, resources, utilising trusted relationships with older people, women and young adults to support their mental health and wellbeing to enable them to build back stronger from the pandemic. This meant we did not require as much lead up time to start the work, identify potential key beneficiaries or develop the new areas of work. Project

TSIs described offering networking to funded projects that also involved members of the community so this encouraged cross referrals and joint working. TSIs also ran awareness campaigns about the Fund and celebrated organisations each month to increase their visibility.

The most important element of our partnership development in year two is the creation of the Community Wellbeing Network. This network has grown from being originally aimed solely at funded groups to now include: funded groups from 1 and 2; the Culture, Arts, Health and Social Care (CAHSC) funded groups; community link workers; and any other third sector groups looking at community mental health that were perhaps excluded from applying for funding (due to size or clinical approach) but are keen to remain part of the discussion. This network is delivered as a partnership with HSCP colleagues and its primary focus is to diversify the networking opportunities for our groups. For this year our aim is to ensure all groups are better connected and their activity better known within the wider health sector. TSI

Impact of the Fund on the TSIs

The final consideration is the impact of the Fund on the TSIs.

In the survey and during the interviews the TSIs were asked about the wider impacts of the TSI-led partnership managing the Fund. The chart that follows reflects the survey responses and shows that there were several additional benefits to administering the Fund.

Table 4.2: Wider impacts of a TSI-led partnership managing the Fund (multiple response)
  % of TSIs
Raised the profile of the TSI 94%
Strengthened local partnership work 94%
Developed new local connections 94%
Influenced planning and action to support community mental health and wellbeing 84%
Identified alternative ways to manage funding at a local level 84%
Provided local evidence from funded projects to inform strategies and plans 72%
Other, e.g. helped community organisations showcase their work to other local partners, created more opportunities for grassroots organisations to access funding 22%

Increased profile and standing amongst local partners

The TSIs described changes in their relationships with other parners in terms of:

  • strengthening relationships and mutual respect with the HSCP, local authority, mental health teams, CPPs in terms of their increased understanding of local communities and community groups
  • establishing themselves as effective fund managers with robust and appropriate processes, approaches and skills to disburse grants and capacity build
  • becoming recognised as an agency with a greater and more dedicated focus on mental health and wellbeing so that they can support policy and strategy development. One TSI described how the local health improvement team had utilised the TSI's knowledge of activity across the area to inform a strategy refresh.

This increased recognition and strengthened connections with the statutory sector was considered to have wider and longer term benefits for the TSI across the range of its work.

I think by having that increased profile and stronger relationships, we can demonstrate what we can do beyond what partners anticipate that we would traditionally do. We're being involved in conversations about the administration of other funds. We're almost seen as an informal expert in that fund delivery, that's been good for us. As an administrator of a fund, it helps demonstrate to wider sector, the role that we can play in building capacity.

Stronger connections with smaller organisations and the local community

The administration of the Fund, the work with people with lived experience and the capacity building with grassroots community groups have resulted in closer relationships with some organisations and new connections with mental health and wellbeing groups that the TSIs had previously not engaged or interacted with.

The growth in those connections has provided insights into the need in local areas as well as a better understanding of how local groups function, the pressures they are facing and where they can best be supported.

Local intelligence and insight about the aims, successes and challenges within the third sector in Falkirk gleaned from managing and administering the Fund have been incredibly valuable and have directly influenced how we can best meet their needs with our wider offer. TSI

This closer connection has provided many TSIs with a greater understanding of their local mental health and wellbeing landscape and built up richer and clearer intelligence of the third sector which will help inform and plan future services and support.

We have grown to have a greater appreciation of the range of support opportunities on offer through the TSI and perhaps more importantly, started to build good working relationships with TSI staff team members. Project

Increased TSI capability

The adminstration of the Fund has increased staff knowledge and understanding on various issues around effective fund management and systems that can support it, community engagement activities to reach grassroots organisations and improved knowledge of the mental health and wellbeing landscape.

An area where TSIs identified key learning was in the experience and understanding of involving people with lived experience in their work.

The TSIs had strengethened their appreciation and had developed more confidence in the role of those with lived experience being best placed to identify needs and recognise solution focused approaches within their own communities.

Those living closest to the issues often have the answers but not always the means to do anything about it. We received some very knowledgeable insights and interesting perspectives on funding applications from the people having lived experience who offered their time to support our award panels. TSI

TSIs showed a growing understanding of the considerations associated with engaging people with lived experience and the need to put in place adequate support to enable lived experience representation to be effective and meaningful. There was acknowledgement that people with lived experience want to be involved in the Fund processes and could do this with the right support and sufficient time to contribute.

There was also a better understanding that being involved in the whole process was not essential and recognition of the over-consultation that some people felt and adjusting processes accordingly so that the input was at the most valuable points in the process.

For some TSIs, the involvement of people with lived experience was most effective with the support of other agencies with strong links, the expertise and the capacity to engage and support people's involvement with the Fund.


This chapter focused on the impact of the Fund. The evaluation has shown that there were positive outcomes for people who accessed the funded services, the local organisations that received funding and the TSIs. The Fund had:

  • supported a wealth and diversity of projects to deliver activities and services that promoted and supported the conditions for good mental health and wellbeing in the local population
  • funded projects that led to positive effects on their beneficiaries' socialisation; physical activity, skills development, confidence and self-esteem and improved ability to manage mental health and wellbeing
  • increased the TSI profile amongst local partners, created stronger connections and a better understanding of smaller organisations; increased knowledge of the mental health and wellbeing needs in the local community and augmented TSI capability.



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