Fund to alleviate pressure on NHS mental health services awards £725,000 to community groups

DORSET Community Foundation has awarded more than £725,000 to 22 groups whose work helps prevent people developing serious mental health problems.
The Community Wellbeing and Mental Health fund, run in collaboration with NHS Dorset and Community Action Network (CAN), was set up to support groups running community based, non-clinical services and activities that help adults improve their wellbeing and mental health and assist those living with mental health conditions to aid their recovery.
The fund is designed to reduce pressure on the NHS and complement the Access Wellbeing programme, a new way of delivering mental health and wellbeing services in Dorset, in partnership with the NHS, councils and the voluntary and community sector.
Among the groups it has supported is Options Wellbeing Trust in Bournemouth, which has been awarded £59,000 over two years to launch a peer support network for people with eating disorders. The trust will support people though free sessions led by trained volunteers with experience of eating disorders, a closed Facebook  group and an online portal. The NHS in Dorset has seen referrals for eating disorders rise by 53 per cent since the pandemic, with 100 a week coming in.
Wendy Lee, the trust’s Head of Health and Wellbeing, said: “The grant is fantastic, we would not have been able to launch this network without it. By fostering a supportive community and providing ongoing support, our interventions promote long-term mental health stability, minimising the need for emergency or acute care from NHS services who are currently extremely overwhelmed.”
Access Dorset has been awarded £60,000 over two years to run its activity sessions for people with both physical and mental disabilities at The Bridge community centre in Bournemouth. The group is led by its users who help choose the programme of activities, which include art, drama, gardening, DIY and cookery.
Chief executive Jonathan Waddington-Jones said people with disabilities can become isolated and suffer a decline in mental health without somewhere to meet new people and enjoy fresh challenges.
“The grant is going to be transformational in what we can provide for the disabled people we support,” he said. “It's a huge boost not only in cash terms but in terms of recognition of the good work that we're doing here – and it's a huge boost for staff morale as well as direct benefit to our beneficiaries.”
Wild and Free Therapy in Boscombe has been awarded £4,300 over a year to run beach and sea activities for parents and carers of children with disabilities. The group will run programmes of six mindful sessions, to include surfing, wild swimming, paddle-boarding and beach yoga, aimed at combating the mental and physical challenges faced by those with an intensive caring role. It also hopes to run more casual 'drop-in' sessions.
Director Emily Sutton said: “This grant will allow us to engender a process of change using 'blue space therapy', for those with an unpaid caring role to help to lessen mental and physical health issues and reduce isolation. We empower carers with tools to combat low confidence and self-esteem, and grow in self-worth and resilience, while building a lasting community."
A £79,000 grant over two years to Sexual Trauma and Recovery Services (STARS Dorset) in Dorchester and Poole, will fund an administrator to run a series of support groups for people who have suffered people across the county who have experienced sexual violence or domestic abuse.
The groups will include workshops covering grounding techniques, anxiety management, anchors and trauma response as well as creative sessions. Empowerment groups will look at building on skills and positive thoughts to raise self-esteem, self-confidence and how to establish a self-care practice as part of every day.
Chief executive Helen Stevens said: “Our range of activities will ensure more holistic, wrap-around care for clients, will help build resilience and positive coping strategies building self-esteem, self-confidence and empowering clients to feel in control of their emotional wellbeing.”
CAN is helping successful applicants with project implementation and evaluation and will bring them together for networking to share strengths, identify challenges and learn together, as well as connecting them to broader support such as hubs and wellbeing coordinators. Chief executive Karen Loftus said: “We’ve been championing the role of charities and community groups in supporting good mental health for many years, so we’re delighted to be working in partnership to ensure they have the knowledge and tools to effectively deliver innovative pieces of work.”
Dorset Community Foundation chief executive Grant Robson added: “This fund has been a major piece of work for us and we are delighted that, because of our expert knowledge of the voluntary sector in Dorset, we’ve been able to deliver a programme alongside CAN that meets NHS Dorset’s objectives.”
There will be a second application round in the summer for grants up to £10,000.
Find out more about the work of Dorset Community Foundation here.

Pictured: Wild and Free Therapy in Boscombe has been awarded £4,300 over a year to run beach and sea activities for parents and carers of children with disabilities

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