Hundreds of people in Knowsley have been helped by the mental health community programme, Reach Out to Face Forward, in the last three years – and residents have continued to have access to activities and support throughout the pandemic.
Knowsley’s programme, funded by National Lottery Reaching Communities, focusses on self-management to deal with challenges faced due to mental health.
It takes a holistic approach, connecting people who are experiencing mental health issue with community learning activities and groups to improve their health and wellbeing.
All the courses are co-designed and co-delivered by volunteers and people who have experience of mental health issues, complementing medical interventions provided by GPs or mental health services.
New ways to learn
The start of the pandemic and first national lockdown in March 2020 meant the programme had to adapt, with support from the National Lottery, tutors and learners were provided with IT equipment and devices which enabled a switch to online delivery.
A wide range of therapeutic and educational videos have been produced and posted on social media with thousands of people watching and engaging with the videos, and the numbers are still rising.
The online programme offers a range of activities similar to those available before the pandemic including IT skills, creative skills (such as card and jewellery making), discovering yourself through local and family history, English and Maths courses leading to recognised qualifications, as well as guided relaxation and mindfulness plus videos with Covid-19 information and advice.
The ‘Farm to Fork’ project was developed for people with learning difficulties who still needed access to community activities during the pandemic, this involved learners cultivating their own produce in polytunnels, purchased through the support of the National Lottery.
Jenny Day, Manager of Your Voice Your Choice, an alternative adult day service, said:
“We were so grateful for the opportunity for our service users to engage in the Farm to Fork project. During the most uncertain of times it was extremely important that service users had the opportunity to engage in safe, outdoor provision, throughout the pandemic. The group loved putting the polytunnel together and preparing the ground and cannot wait to build more and grow both flowers and vegetables for the vulnerable members of our local communities.”
“The success of the Farm to Fork project has inspired us to gain further funding for the future to further develop and create a green space for all the community with our service users as the enablers and leaders to enrich others.
“We are very excited and say a big thank you to the FACE Forward project and Knowsley Council for their support.”
Key outcomes from participants on the programme include improved confidence and self-esteem, improved mental health, having better social networks and relationships, along with learning new skills.
Over the 3 year period 87 learners successfully completed an accredited Level 2 volunteering qualification, 6 volunteers have gone on to gain full time employment and others have progressed and developed careers as adult education tutors and facilitators on the programme.
Cllr Margaret Harvey, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said:
Reach Out to Face Forward has helped many Knowsley residents to improve their mental health and resilience over the last three years. Crucially, we were able to adapt the programme at the start of the pandemic enabling residents to continue to access their learning and support safely, which has been critical for participant’s mental health and wellbeing over what has been a challenging 12 months.
“I’m delighted, thanks to the continued support of the National Lottery Reaching Communities funding, that we are able to continue delivery of the programme for at least the next six months. We will continue to expand and develop the programme to ensure it is as accessible to as many people in our communities as possible.”
Reach Out to Face Forward, is delivered by Knowsley Council’s Family and Community Education (FACE) service in partnership with North West Boroughs Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.
Since launching in January 2018, 959 people have taken part in over 150 community courses. The programme has also delivered 34 sessions on mental health inpatient units, providing activities plus information and guidance on how to engage on Face Forward community courses.
For further information, visit the Face Forward website