Traverse were delighted to work alongside Manchester Health & Care Commissioning and Macc on their Mental Health Grants Programme for voluntary and community sector organisations from across Manchester. Tim Bidey, Evaluation Manager, shares the main lessons learnt from the evaluation in terms of what works about delivering mental health services through community organisations.
In May 2016, Manchester Health & Care Commissioning (MHCC), Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH) and Macc launched a mental health grants programme for voluntary and community sector organisations in Manchester.
The main aim of the programme was to improve the mental health and wellbeing of people with mental health problems living in Manchester. In total, it awarded 35 grants of up to £10,000 to voluntary and community sector organisations, totalling £328,044.
Traverse was commissioned to undertake an independent evaluation of the grants programme to capture ‘what works’ and ‘why’ in mental health service delivery and provide evidence to help inform future commissioning.
What did we find?
The evaluation found evidence of a wide range of outcomes for individuals, organisations and mental health services in Manchester, from increased self-confidence and community inclusion through to improved pathways to recovery for people upon discharge from statutory healthcare services.
Local VCSE organisations also played a critical role in achieving these outcomes through their status as a bridge between statutory healthcare services and vulnerable and marginalised communities. Where voluntary and community sector projects were felt to have worked well for people with mental health problems they had focused on:
- Support delivered within community venues. Delivering mental health assessments or services at local community organisations increased people’s access to mental health services. The wealth of activities within community centres provided other forms of support, which help people sustain their recovery and build social relationships and networks
- Person-centred approaches. Participation in projects was underpinned by flexible approaches that accommodated fluctuations in the needs and health of people. For example, running catch-up sessions where participations had missed weeks of activities.
- Holistic support. Particularly within larger voluntary organisations, specialised roles enabled projects to build relationships and easily liaise with other organisations to help resolve that might have otherwise exacerbated people’s mental health problems (such as financial worries).
- Improving understanding of vulnerable and marginalised groups. Voluntary and community organisations’ understanding of and trusted status within communities was a useful bridge for statutory services to better understand the challenges these groups face and build relationships – especially where people had lost trust in statutory services due to negative experiences.
- Longstanding relationships. Partnerships between VCSE organisations and IAPT providers worked best when organisations had previously worked together. Where this wasn’t the case, it was harder to build understanding of IAPT thresholds and pathways, resulting in inappropriate referrals.
Funded projects also came across several challenges around which learning still needs to be generated and approaches developed. This included how best to provide high levels of individualised support within limited project budgets, and how to free up the necessary time and resources in both the voluntary and community statutory sectors to further strengthen relationships and build a shared agenda around mental health service delivery.
Where can you find the report?
The executive summary and full report is available on the Macc website.
How can you find out more?
If you have questions about the evaluation please contact: Tim Bidey or telephone 07702 515710.