Made in communities

19 July 2023

The national evaluation of the Better Mental Health Fund

David Woodhead, Zoë McHayle and Karen Newbigging

The Better Mental Health Fund was set up by the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) in 2021 to address mental health challenges arising from the Covid-19 pandemic. Funding for public mental health was given to local authorities in 40 of the most disadvantaged areas of England, which experience higher rates of mental ill health, and used to run 314 projects.

Centre for Mental Health was commissioned by OHID to evaluate the Better Mental Health Fund nationally. We worked with local areas to understand how they used the Fund to improve mental health and wellbeing in their communities, and what can be learned for policy and practice longer term from this unique programme. Made in communities is the result of this evaluation, and shares key learning points on how investment in public mental health can reap the biggest benefits for local communities.

The report finds that the Fund enabled local councils to support a wide range of activities to promote mental health, covering a spectrum of preventative and support-based interventions and projects for the general population, for people at risk of experiencing poor mental health, and for people who are already experiencing mental health challenges. Councils did this by tailoring their use of the Fund to the needs of their local communities.

Projects’ focuses included parenting programmes, bereavement support, debt advice, befriending programmes, and mental health promotion for young people. The projects reached well over half a million people either directly or indirectly, in many communities or population groups that have traditionally been poorly served by both public mental health and mental health services.

Made in communities showcases the value of investing in local councils and communities to boost people’s mental health and wellbeing and illustrates how working alongside community organisations to deliver evidence-based interventions can make a tangible difference to people’s lives. The Better Mental Health Fund has shown what is possible with wise investment in the public’s mental health and lays the groundwork for a longer-term, sustainable approach to supporting mental health in all local areas.

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