Small and local charities are dealing with some of the complex and intractable mental health problems which the NHS can’t always address on its own, writes Paul Streets
We recently hosted 10 small and local mental health charities from around England together to meet Claire Murdoch – the NHS England and NHS Improvement national director for mental health – and leaders from the NHS national mental health team.
The day before, the Foundation published a blog from Claire on the importance of small charities in delivering the aspirations of the NHS long-term plan for mental health.
These events never fail to amaze and surprise. This was no different.
We heard of the quiet, understated and dedicated commitment of small charities to support a huge range of mental health issues in the community: including specialised services for people with eating disorders; the higher prevalence of mental health issues in the LGBTQ community and in young black men, and a range of holistic community-based services providing social contact, therapeutic and practical support for people who can often feel misunderstood and isolated. Their quiet professionalism shined.
The new long-term plan encourages to continue developing strong links with charities and they have recently announced £70m for community mental health work
Alongside this, there is a yearning to be part of the solution to the complexity of mental health issues as a delivery partner. Charities want to better support an NHS facing rising demand and the recruitment challenges of a tight job market.
Most already have some kind of relationship with NHS commissioners or providers.
Relationships are key, particularly building strong links between local commissioners and providers. One charity who came to our meeting serves as a prime example of what can be achieved when small and local charities work hand-in-hand with NHS partners.
The Wolverhampton-based charity African Caribbean Community Initiative has been building a strong relationship with CCG commissioners in order to work together to help tackle complex mental health issues in the city.
But there is still a broad feeling that charities, so intimately connected to mental health in their communities, can add more value and compliment the core work of the NHS.
Aeon, the Omari Supported Housing Manager at the African Caribbean Community Initiative, said of the relationships between charities and local NHS commissioners: “Charities involved in working with at risk and vulnerable people are not always valued for the holistic nature of the work they do.”
In fact, our own research shows that smaller charities have a distinctive impact when tackling complex social issues like mental ill health. The NHS has been working hard to address this and has achieved huge progress in the past five years.
Their new long-term plan encourages to continue developing strong links with charities and they have recently announced £70m for community mental health work.
Speaking to the group at our meeting, it was clear that these small and local charities are dealing with some of the complex and intractable mental health problems which the NHS can’t always address on its own when the support needed is more holistic. They do this because they provide a consistency, reliability and structured point of support to people whose lives are often chaotic.
We fund 102 charities tackling mental health across England and Wales and many more who say that the increasingly complex challenges their clients face are due to complex mental health issues. They are just a small proportion of the thousands that provide similar services and support across the UK.
Claire was dead right in her blog when she said: “The NHS won’t achieve the mental health revolution… without the support of the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector. We need to reinforce the links between charities and our services at the local level to achieve our ambitious objectives.”
The NHS is leading one of the most ambitious mental health programmes in the world. We will be doing everything we can to make sure small but vital charities get to play their role as part of the solution to this very modern and growing social crisis.