Torbay Wellbeing Engagement Project (TWEP) provides a low level mental health support intervention for people accessing foodbank hubs and family support services. The intervention focuses on mental wellbeing and building links into the wider ecosystem of mental health support through a community helpline provided by Torbay Community Development Trust. We were invited to conduct an evaluation of the project. This work was funded by the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities via the local Public Health Team.
The Better Mental Health Fund (BMHF) was initiated in response to a recognition of the negative impacts of the pandemic on population mental health, and its role in exacerbating health inequalities, including mental health inequalities. BMHF forms part of the Government’s response Mental Health Recovery Action Plan 2021/22 (HM Government, 2021). As part of this Plan, £15 million was allocated to preventing mental ill health and promoting good mental health in the most deprived upper tier local authorities in England. Torbay Local Authority was eligible to submit an Expression of Interest to receive funding subject to appropriate approvals and in June 2021, £270,765 of grant funding was approved, with £20,000 approx. after the initial fund was awarded for administration and evaluation.
Consultation with local voluntary and community sector (VCSE) organisations prior to the Expression of Interest being submitted had centred on the potential for addressing mental health needs via food banks, children’s centres and other ‘Places of Welcome’ in the Bay. The aim would be to deliver a project (Torbay Wellbeing Engagement Project) that could work at a community level, reaching out to and delivering interventions that would prevent poor mental health and improve wellbeing locally. Torbay Community Development Trust (TCDT) brought together local organisations who submitted a bid for the funding to Torbay Council which was successful and funding was awarded in August 2021.
The Torbay Wellbeing Engagement Project outcomes were to:
• Prevent and improve mental ill health and promote wellbeing by addressing the presenting needs of residents who access local food support and children’s centres
• Pilot and evaluate an enhanced model of social prescribing, optimising, and adding to pre-existing community and statutory sector assets.
• Galvanise whole-system working, optimising community, voluntary and social enterprise (CVSE) and statutory assets for the benefit of the wider system, individual organisations, and the public.
The aim of the evaluation was to assess whether the project had achieved its outcomes and to use learning from TWEP to support future commissioning activity. PenARC worked with Torbay Community Development Trust and the Project Commissioner at Torbay Public Health Team, to agree the following key evaluation questions (KEQs):
1. Does TWEP improve mental health and wellbeing outcomes for individuals and/or families?
2. What are the intended and unintended impacts of the work, at the individual, service and wider community level, and how these have come about?
3. How has the project been implemented across the five partner organisations (South West Family Values (Children’s Centre); Brixham Youth Enquiry Service; Paignton Community Larder; The Pad (community kitchen) Ellacombe Community Partnership)?
The evaluation used several methods to collect data: Ripple Effect Mapping (REM) workshops, documentary analysis, interviews with key stakeholders, quantitative analysis of The Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale and Family Outcomes Star Plus data held by Torbay Community Development Trust and participant observation at two of the partner organisations. Qualitative data was collected between April 2022 and May 2022 and all data was analysed from May-June 2022.
The data we analysed showed that TWEP has some promise in improving people’s mental health and preventing deterioration. We collected positive stories about the experiences that people have had being connected to TWEP support, and how it has made a real difference to their lives for the better. However, data capture using tools like Short Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (SWEMWBMS) was inconsistent across the providers.
The wider impacts of TWEP have been positive: some people who were helped by TWEP received support that has had far reaching impacts in their lives, improving where they live, increasing their income and widening their support networks. For some providers involved, TWEP has opened up their services into supporting people’s wider mental health and wellbeing needs, beyond what they were doing before, which will be positive for the current and future people they work with. The impact on local relationships has been to create a partnership of organisations who are working collaboratively, applying for funding for other projects, and working much more broadly across the voluntary and community sector landscape in Torbay. TWEP has provided reasons for organisations to meet and learn about each other, and this has led to those organisations continuing to work together now the funding has finished.
All providers successfully implemented TWEP in terms of identifying staff who would fulfil the Wellbeing Coordinator role, building relationships with people, giving one to one support and signposting to other TWEP partners and external agencies. The use of the therapeutic budget (part of the package of support that providers had access to for the people they worked with) varied between organisations. This may be partially attributed to changes in staffing during the project lifetime, but when it was used it did enable people to access services or support that would otherwise have been beyond their reach. Most providers used the funding to augment and increase existing activities. The Project Coordinator fulfilled a vital function in building relationships between TWEP providers, as well as with external organisations, and in supporting providers to achieve the aims of the project.
Several challenges were identified with implementing TWEP: the short time-scale of the programme which impacted on staff recruitment and training and organising referral and partnership working arrangements. The short time scale was also thought to undermine the purpose of TWEP, as mental health issues can take time to resolve. In addition, programme management was challenging for various reasons.
The evaluation produced a series of recommendations, relevant for commissioners of these kinds of community led initiatives, as well as for providers and organisations involved in delivering partnership based programmes. In addition, through contact with PenARC because of this evaluation, TCDT are now involved in a research grant application.
A follow up workshop with participants is being planned for the Autumn, and the report findings are informing commissioning activity locally, as well as the report being submitted to the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities in fulfilment of requirement for evaluation of BMHF initiatives.
Watch this video about the project, produced by Torbay Community Development Trust
- Simon Shebersky, Torbay Community Development Trust
- Bernadette MacAuley, Torbay Community Development Trust
- Rachel Bell, Torbay Public Health
- South West Family Values
- Brixham Youth Enquiry Service
- Paignton Community Larder
- Eat That Frog
- Ellacombe Community Partnership