Agenda item

Better Mental Health Befriender Project

Presentation by Phil Hayes, Rotherfed, and Ruth Fletcher-Brown, Public Health


Consideration was given to a powerpoint presentation in respect of the Better Mental Health Befriending Project. The Chair welcomed Phil Hayes, Chief Executive Officer of Rotherham Federation of Communities (RotherFed) and Ruth Fletcher-Brown, Specialist Public Health, to present.


The presentation described the context of the work. In early 2021, Health and Social Care had announced a funding stream as part of the Local Plan which supported projects delivered in partnership with various third sector organisations. The projects focussed on schools, workplaces, and built on existing good practice in the voluntary sector. The Befriending Project grew out of this work. The presentation covered the background of the project, an overview of the project, outcomes of the project, including a breakdown of the beneficiaries of the project, key achievements, and recognition received.


The background of the project was illustrated with the following points:


         8.3% of Rotherham residents have a low happiness score according to the annual population survey, 20/21 (lower value is better) – (chart, right).

         In all, 81 (49%) Rotherham neighbourhoods (Lower Super Output Areas or LSOAs) rank among the 30% most deprived in England and 36 LSOAs (22%) are in the top 10% most deprived. There are 167 LSOAs in total in Rotherham.

         The estimated prevalence of common mental health disorders for Rotherham is 18.6%; this is higher than that for Yorkshire and the Humber and England (2017).

         Data from 2018/19, show 12% or Rotherham residents reported a long-term mental health problem, which is significantly higher than the England value of 9.9%.


An overview of the project was illustrated:


         Rotherham befriending network formed in 2020 in response to covid. Network chaired by RotherFed.

         Public health Rotherham successful with application summer 2021 – 3 projects including “Befriending.”

         PH commissioned RotherFed to lead partnership of VCS befriending providers .

         Rotherham befriending project began in September 2021 ending in May 2022.

         Project supported lonely and isolated residents to take the next steps back into community life.

         Through social engagement, training, local activities, TARAs,  community group involvement, etc.


Outcomes and targets of the project were:


         Target of 800 Rotherham residents supported through this project

         Areas of deprivation a key focus of OHID – Bottom 30% LSOAs

         BAME communities also a key focus for OHID

         WEMWEBS beneficiary assessments for all involved

         Case studies produced by each provider each month

         ‘Be a good neighbour’ campaign created and launched


A breakdown of the beneficiaries of the project was provided:

         835 Rotherham residents were supported.

         76% of beneficiaries were female 24% were male.

         34% of beneficiaries were from BAME communities.

         28% of beneficiaries were living with a disability; 57% were not, and 15% were unknown.

         525 residents (63%) live in the most deprived 30% LSOAs in England.


Achievements of the project were also described:


         WEMWBS Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (for ages 13+) was used – a first and second assessment was completed with all beneficiaries. The mean score at first assessment was 40.22, at second assessment 49.38. This increased by 9.22 and is classed as “significant” change. It was felt that the “scores” as detailed in the report were extremely pleasing and clearly showed the improvements to mental health and the positive “distance travelled” within the beneficiary cohort. The approach was to make the assessment process a key part of the delivery from the start, with frontline teams accountable for completing ‘before’ surveys with beneficiaries as soon as is practicable. Teams made beneficiaries aware that these two surveys are important as they are not only a funding requirement, but also provide the beneficiary with the chance to see how they have progressed in the process.

         The project supported 815 residents of Rotherham who were lonely and isolated both due to the impact of Covid but also prior to the pandemic, with additional “next steps” support to take part in community life, engage socially with others and improve their mental health and wellbeing.

         This diverse group of providers involved have offered varied services to a range of client groups such as BAME, older people, young people and families, people with mental health issues, and cover the whole life course within the partnership to ensure access and delivery into BAME communities, supporting adults of all ages, focusing on those living in statistically deprived locations, and supporting the wider family through our approach.

         There were 42 case studies produced for this project and 4 videos and 1 social media clip for the ‘be a good neighbour campaign’.


The project had received recognition in several ways:


         Befriending project performance was highlighted by OHID across the network/programme.

         RotherFed was involved in ‘testing’ assessment/data capture processes for OHID.

         Blogs were created at OHID request and shared on their ‘knowledge hub.’

         A Befriending project article was created by RotherFed for ‘spotlight’ section on knowledge hub.

         Project case studies were submitted to project evaluators – centre for mental health (CFMH).

         RotherFed have taken part in additional sessions with CFMH evaluation and OHID best practices.


The impact of the project was noted, specifically, where peer support was observed to be breaking down more barriers than professional support. This meant that access to support services was better as a result of the peer support element. The presentation emphasised that, not only were outcomes achieved, but the data was captured well. This showed that befriending led to access to wider support services and reached communities inclusively.


During the ensuing discussion, the following points were raised/clarified:


-         Thanks to RotherFed for added value on befriending services.

-         Current relevance and potential reach of this work to support people affected by rising cost of living.

-         How this programme linked up with other initiatives as a conduit into services.

-         The need to remember that all ages are affected and share a need for connection.

-         The positive impact of intergenerational befriending.


Resolved:-  That the update and the success of the Befriending Programme be noted.