Better Mental Health Fund: Bradford

Bradford District is the fifth-largest metropolitan district in England and has a population of about 534,000 people. Younger people dominate a large population of Bradford, and the city has the third-highest population percentage for people aged under 16 in England.

Bradford district ranks as the 13th most deprived local authority in England and second-most deprived in the Yorkshire and Humber region (after the City of Kingston upon Hull).

Bradford is a region with a mix of diverse cultures and ethnic groups. According to the Bradford Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA), 67.4% of the population is white, 26.8% is Asian/Asian British, 2.5% are from ‘Mixed/Multiple’ ethnic groups, 1.8% is from Black/African/Caribbean/Black British ethnic groups, and 1.5% accounts for ‘Other’ ethnic groups.

Almost 120,000 people are thought to be income deprived (the fourth largest figure in England), and more than one in three people of working age were out of work in 2011. Furthermore, in a recent survey on Bradford’s housing, just over 40% of housing in the private sector was classed as not decent.

The number of patients who are registered with a mental health diagnosis has increased from year to year since 2010-2011, and as of 2014-2015 there were 5,200 patients registered with a mental health diagnosis.

One of the challenges identified is the predicted increase in the number of children with mental health problems over the coming years, in part due to an increase in the child population, particularly in deprived areas.

Learn more in Bradford’s JSNA

How was the Better Mental Health Fund used?

The additional investment from Better Mental Health Fund was welcomed and used to extend the scope of existing projects. The Fund supported a range of projects, most of which were delivered by the voluntary sector, operating across and targeted at populations facing greater inequalities, notably people of colour in Bradford, both in terms of their social conditions and access to support that can properly meet their needs. Projects included:

  • Poverty proofing pilot: living well in schools – 12 schools and over 6,000 children have given their views on poverty issues
  • CLEAR dementia care – care planning for people with dementia with an explicit focus on promoting wellbeing
  • Education Emotional Wellbeing Team – evidence-based interventions for mild to moderate emotional wellbeing difficulties to children and young people
  • A social marketing campaign aimed at improving the mental health and positive wellbeing of vulnerable communities not often reached by traditional mental health campaigns
  • Intergenerational Linking projects – building positive connections between younger and older people
  • Wellbeing community champions – improving general mental and physical wellbeing and strengthening links to social prescribing.

Intergenerational Linking Project

The aim of this project was to build positive connections between younger and older people, allowing all involved to gain a better understanding of each other so that, over time, meaningful relationships will develop. They shared their interests and saw that they had similarities and differences in interests and views. It is hoped that this understanding will contribute to longer term objectives – with positive mental health outcomes – of building a more cohesive community in Bradford.

1,340 young people under 25 and 330 older people over 65 were engaged in the project.

Feedback from participants was positive across the board. Care home workers reported that participation lifted the spirits of residents – many of whom had found life challenging in lockdown. A worker on the project wrote, ‘We hope Intergenerational Linking will be a long-term programme which will be built on over a number of years allowing the partnerships between each school and care home to develop. Thank you for funding this work – it has made a difference’.

Wellbeing Community Champions

The project focused on building awareness of mental health; reducing isolation and loneliness, improving general mental and physical wellbeing, and strengthening links to social prescribing.

Equality Together worked with seven delivery partner organisations to reach people and communities in Bradford with community champions. They worked with 59 volunteer community champions who reached out to people about mental health and wellbeing and spoke about how to improve mental health, as well as promoting opportunities to reduce isolation.

Race Equality Network engaged with 15 organisations that worked residents from Pakistani, Indian, Black African/Caribbean, Arabic, African, Central Eastern European, Bangladeshi, Afghani, European and White British backgrounds.

Opportunities were created for residents to promote mental wellbeing including dance groups and sports classes as well as cooking, knitting and yoga.

The project ran over six months from October 2021-March 2022 although delivery actually extended to May 2022.

Wellbeing scores for the project were positive. Pre- and post-measures for 400 beneficiaries suggested: increases in life satisfaction; increases in feelings of being worthwhile; increases in happiness; and decreases in anxiety.

Impacts on local people

Overall, the projects reached 30,399 beneficiaries by the end of May 2022: 24,567 direct beneficiaries and 5,832 indirect beneficiaries. They employed 16 staff and engaged 170 partner organisations. The reach, where noted, to actual direct beneficiaries by ethnicity indicated that those in greatest need were engaged: 32.4% identified as ‘Black, Asian and ethnic minority groups’ and 18.7% identified as White British and Irish. However, for 48.9% of beneficiaries, their ethnicity was unknown.

The figures suggest that people from the most deprived areas were positively engaged. 38.6% (12,329 beneficiaries) lived in the most deprived 30% of the country; 23.2% (7,407 beneficiaries) lived in the most deprived 10%.

What have we learnt?

1. The Better Mental Health Fund was useful in extending the activity of voluntary and community sector groups that had come together to act during the Covid-19 pandemic to support people from racialised communities. It provided funds to continue activity that was well embedded in communities, building on the relationships and goodwill that had been built.

2. Progress was quickly made because of the approach adopted in Bradford of funding projects that:

  • were already underway
  • had strong and trusted links in the community, and
  • had a clear sense of what would work for disadvantaged communities.

3. More support is needed to help retain volunteers. Without fully supported and funded volunteering programmes, retention is becoming much more difficult.

VCSE participants noted that there was a danger that a lack of continued/guaranteed funding for projects will cause some regression in the impacts achieved. This includes the risk of people returning to poor mental health or become isolated again. For example, the pandemic had a significant negative impact on over-65s, and the Community Champions work was pivotal in helping that age group access activities and re-engage with their communities.

There is a risk that short term funding, unless properly connected into longer term investment plans, can result in limited positive impact for excluded and vulnerable communities. This might cause harm, although such fears were not yet supported by any evidence.

Local evaluation

There is no overall local evaluation of the work in Bradford, but there are individual evaluations reports of a number of the projects. They show how relatively small amounts of money have had impact on communities in great need in the city.  

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