Thanks to funding provided by NHS England, charities and community groups across the North East and Cumbria have received additional money this winter to support people experiencing hardship and at risk of mental ill health.
The North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System (ICS) worked with Cumbria Community Foundation and County Durham Community Foundation to directly fund voluntary sector organisations and relieve winter pressures on the wider healthcare system.
Grants of up to £25,000 were available from the NHS Winter Resilience Fund to support voluntary and community sector interventions, promoting positive mental health and wellbeing in the widest sense and for all ages. Eight community organisations in Cumbria received a share of almost £100,000 and 38 in the North East benefited from just over £900,000.
Funded projects include emotional and wellbeing support specifically for older people, counselling for carers, targeted mental health support for high-risk individuals, extra capacity to support people with drug and alcohol dependencies, and professional 1-1 mental health support for anyone aged 11 and over.
Age UK Carlisle & Eden received £18,000 towards a complete holistic service offering physical, emotional, social, and financial health and wellbeing support to older people most affected by the pandemic.
Alison Ambrose, Chief Executive, said: "The NHS Winter Resilience Fund has enabled Age UK Carlisle and Eden to develop a confidential and accessible service, which supports vulnerable people and to help them through the winter months. We provide opportunities for individuals to talk confidentially and be there to offer practical and emotional support."
Since the first lockdown in March last year, Cumbria Alcohol and Drug Advisory Service (CADAS), has been 'business as usual' for people with addictive behaviour, and their family members and carers, with support being offered online, via telephone and video conferencing. January can be a particularly difficult time of year for people suffering from an addiction and winter can be a trigger for many people's mental health decline. The charity received just over £5,000 to provide additional support by increasing staff hours, while offering clinical supervision for all staff.
Chief Executive, Leigh Williams, said: "The funding will make a significant difference in a few short months. Firstly, we will be able to offer recovery support to an additional 10 people throughout north Cumbria as we increase our staff hours. Secondly, we are investing in the physical and mental health of our staff team by offering them some personal supervision so that they can continue to see and support several vulnerable people week after week as they work from home in isolated conditions themselves."
Time to Change West Cumbria runs the Women Out West centre in Whitehaven. It received £17,250 to employ a full-time therapist to offer face to face and virtual support during winter.
Rachel Holliday, Director, said: “Lockdown during summer was awful for so many of our isolated women who were afraid and anxious. Winter, with dark nights and the cold, is far worse.
“In order to provide the best service to our most vulnerable women, we understand their complex issues need to be addressed sensitively in a trauma informed approach. We believe this service will prevent women slipping into crisis. It’s important we all have someone to turn to in these uncertain times, now we can make sure no one is left feeling alone and frightened. The Women Out West team aim to leave no one behind as we continue our fight against domestic abuse in our community.”
The Together We Talk project, led by Together We CIC provides 1-1 and small group mental health and wellbeing interventions. It received just over £25,000 to provide additional support over the winter months.
Sam Joughin, Director at Together We CIC, said: “Since the project launched in April last year, we have taken over 400 referrals and we are currently working with 300 active clients day to day. We are thrilled to receive funding as this has allowed previous funding to be extended and additionally, staff to maintain and increase clinical hours to support a wider number of people throughout the ongoing pandemic.”
If you are struggling with your mental health, the Together We Talk project can support you. Email email@example.com, call 0808 196 1773 or visit www.talk.togetherwe.co.uk
John Lawlor, Chief Executive at Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust and Senior Responsible Office for the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System Mental Health Programme, said: "I am grateful for the support provided by Cumbria and County Durham Community Foundations, this joint working approach has enabled the winter resilience funding to reach grassroots projects that impact positively on our communities. The funding is spread throughout North Cumbria and the North East and we are confident this will make an impact on the lives of our most vulnerable residents."
Andy Beeforth, Chief Executive at Cumbria Community Foundation, said: “We are passionate about improving the health and wellbeing of people living in our region and we embrace the opportunity to work collaboratively to implement positive and sustainable change. We are very proud that our voluntary and community sector organisations are increasingly recognised for their pivotal contribution across the region.
“The Fund was significantly over-subscribed with more than 150 applications received, requesting a total of £2.6 million, demonstrating the clear need for this funding and the role of the sector in responding to the needs of our local people, while reducing pressure on the NHS.”
The NHS Winter Resilience Fund is now fully spent, however, if groups still require funding, they are encouraged to contact Cumbria Community Foundation by visiting its website or calling 01900 825760.