Skip to content

Setting out to end the stigma

20 November 2014

The Big Lottery Fund has joined the growing number of organisations committing to end the stigma and discrimination against people with experience of mental health problems by signing a pledge with Time to Change.

Dawn Austwick signs  Big Lottery Fund up, to Time To Change

Dawn Austwick signs the Big Lottery Fund up, to Time To Change

Chief Executive Dawn Austwick pledged her support on behalf of the Big Lottery Fund to the initiative – to promote a better understanding of mental health problems and commit to creating a work place that is safe for all and where mental health issues do not stigmatise any individual.

Almost 300 organisations have signed up to the Time to Change pledge including the Premier League, British Gas, Transport for London, Citizen’s Advice, Shell, Channel 4 and many NHS trusts, universities and local authorities.

Sue Baker, director of Time to Change, said: “It is fantastic that more and more organisations are showing their support in tackling the stigma experienced by people with mental health problems. Employers and their staff can all play a part in helping to stamp out stigma and organisations like the Big Lottery Fund are taking a lead.

“Many leading companies have found that making a strategic commitment to the mental wellbeing of their workforce not only has benefits for their staff but also benefits their bottom-line, improving productivity and staff retention. With one in four people experiencing mental illness it’s time for businesses to work on their approach and start creating more mentally healthy workplaces.”

Time To Change is England’s biggest anti-stigma programme set up to create a positive shift in public attitudes towards mental health problems, the programme promotes better understanding to combat discrimination towards people who experience mental health problems.

Two photos of Lottery Staff  holding up signs saying 'End the stigma'

Big Lottery Fund staff say ‘End the stigma’!

The programme is currently funded by the Big Lottery Fund, as well as Comic Relief and the Department of Health. A Big Lottery Fund grant of over £20 million supported the first phase of Time to Change. In 2013 we awarded a further £3.6 million to build on its success and work with targeted communities.

In October Time To Change released its latest Attitudes data showing the greatest improvement in public attitudes to mental health in a decade. Their latest report – Making a drama out of a crisis – launched earlier this month and explores how mental health problems are portrayed in today’s TV soaps and drama.

Check out the Time To Change website, as a first step to maybe encouraging your organisation to sign-up, if they haven’t!

Post a comment below and share your Time To Change stories.

Who cares if you’re hurting?

18 November 2014

This week, commencing Monday 17 November, is Anti-bullying week. Almost 45,000 children talked to ChildLine about bullying last year. One parent working with one of our HeadStart projects shares her story. Names have been withheld to protect confidentiality.

lone young woman with lap top in her bedroomOur daughter was a happy, sociable and outgoing girl, but all that just seemed to stop overnight when at 11 years old, she started secondary school and the bullying started. She suddenly became moody and argumentative and every time I asked her what was wrong she just kept snapping at me and saying ‘nothing’. When she got in from school she would shut herself away in her bedroom not talking to anyone – it was so stressful, especially for our other daughter who just wanted to play with her big sister.

She was getting more and more withdrawn and I was getting really worried so in the end I went through her mobile phone. I was completely and utterly shocked and distraught at the abusive texts she had been getting from her so called ‘friends’ at school.

We were so angry and hurt that this was happening to her. We felt so guilty that she had been going through all this and we hadn’t noticed and that she hadn’t felt she could come to us for help.

We also later found out she had been cutting herself because of the bullying. I just couldn’t believe it. I kept crying all the time; I felt so helpless and distraught. I just didn’t know what had hit us or how to deal with it all.

Beat bullying posterWhen we found out about the bullying we went straight to the school but they put it down to it ‘just being girls’. The doctor didn’t help much either and we just felt bewildered and let down.

As the situation continued to get worse we felt there was no other option but for our daughter to move school. She didn’t want to go at first, she was going mad, but we didn’t know what else to do, we couldn’t let things carry on.

Thankfully our daughter seems to be happy at her new school but we would have liked more support both for our daughter to know how to deal with the bullying, and for us to know how best to help her. I still have my fingers crossed.

HeadStart aims to build the resilience of young people to help them cope better with difficult circumstances in their lives.  One of these ways is to provide more support for victims of bullying and their families.

To find out more visit and follow @BiglfYoungLives #HeadStartMatters

Life gets better at 40 for Steve

17 November 2014

Life begins at 40 for Steve… Chair of Stoke Expert Citizens, gives us an insight into his journey of recovery and inspiration.

Two men and a woman pose with a Lottery cake

Expert Citizens celebrate

This summer I had many reasons to celebrate.  I reached my 40th birthday; I achieved a new job with the VOICES project, and best of all I became father to a beautiful baby girl.  The last two years have marked a real turning point for me.

I was born in Stoke and have lived here all my life. After leaving school, I worked in the construction industry for over 20 years with my Dad.  Through my hard work, I built a reasonable life with a mortgage, social life, and the usual trappings of domestic life.  However, over several years, drink and drugs started taking over my life.  Although I continued to work as a functional addict for a long time, the impact of my addictions grew.

I lost my driving licence twice for driving while drunk.  I received a police caution for possession of cocaine and developed a reputation for being drunk and disorderly at football matches. I was also charged with assaulting a police officer. By 2010, I could no longer afford to pay the bills and became homeless. My lifestyle had a chronic impact on my mental and physical health to the extent that I was very unwell.  I suffered with cirrhosis of the liver and a hiatus hernia. This lifestyle also had an impact on other people around me.  It felt like my life really couldn’t get any worse.

However, after some reflection I entered a long process of rehab. In 2011, I moved in to a flat where I received further regular help from a psychiatrist and my Smart Moves support worker. I also received help from RIOT (Recovery Is Out There) and eventually became a volunteer with them. Inspired to help others recover, I applied for and gained employment with RIOT as a Project Coordinator.

Through this work and my volunteering, I was invited to take part in a focus group to talk about my experience of complex needs in the summer of 2012. This eventually became the ‘Expert Citizens Group’.  Following on from that, a wide range of partners got together and submitted a bid to the Big Lottery Fund for what was to become the VOICES project.

I was proud to be appointed Chair of the Stoke Expert Citizens Group and we were delighted when the Big Lottery Fund announced that our bid had been successful. We had played a central role in developing the bid. Expert Citizens are also at the centre of project delivery.

As a Service Coordinator with VOICES, I feel really well placed to help other people with complex needs to make the best of the help that is available to support their recovery. It is also exciting that I’m working with a wide range of agencies to identify what works well for people with complex needs and what can be even more effective.

Steven Gratton, Stoke, National Expert Citizens.


For more on Expert Citizens follow us on Twitter @ExpertCitizens


Booze without blues

7 November 2014

£25M to help over-fifties enjoy booze without the blues

The battle against alcohol misuse in the UK is being boosted by a health initiative announced by the Big Lottery Fund.

addaction logoA drink in later life can be one of life’s simple pleasures, but too many the line between a harmless tipple and a more serious problem can become blurred. To help tackle the issue, the Big Lottery Fund is investing £25 million into an alcohol-related harm prevention and awareness programme for the over fifties, in partnership with support charity Addaction.

Rethink Good Health is a UK-wide programme aimed at those aged 50 and over, an age group that can find themselves drinking more for a variety of reasons, such as retirement or an increasing problem of loneliness and isolation, as the recent study from the International Longevity Centre and the charity,  Independent Age, showed.

Other findings also make sobering reading. The most recent data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that alcohol-related deaths are highest among men aged 60 to 64 years (42.6 deaths per 100,000 population) and women aged 55 to 59 years (22.2 deaths per 100,000)1. The 2010 General Lifestyle Survey revealed that 20 per cent of people aged 50 and over drink every day compared to 3 per cent of 20-24 year olds.

The seven-year Rethink Good Health programme will support a variety of projects, with flagship work taking place in Glasgow, Sheffield, Devon, South Wales and Northern Ireland. In the long term, the programme will help inform policy and practice about preventing alcohol-related harm in later life, improve health and wellbeing of people aged 50 and over who are at risk of developing alcohol problems and help build more effective services aimed at alcohol-related issues.

Peter Ainsworth, Big Lottery Fund Chair, said: “The last thing we want to do is to tell older people they can’t enjoy a relaxing drink with friends and family. With a lot of the current alcohol programmes geared towards younger people, we simply want to make sure that those over 50 are not neglected, are informed about the warning signs around alcohol problems and are able to find help if they need it.

“Addaction will bring their wealth of knowledge and experience into leading Rethink Good Health, along with their partners across the UK, as we aim to reduce alcohol-related harm in older people and help them to live healthier, more active and independent lives.”

Simon Antrobus, Chief Executive of Addaction, said: “Problem drinking doesn’t happen in isolation – there are always other factors involved. This is especially true for the over 50s who can end up drinking at harmful levels as they face challenging life transitions such as retirement, the loss of a loved one or loneliness.

“We’ve called our initiative ‘Drink Wise, Age Well’. It’s a great opportunity for us to raise awareness of these issues and improve access to information and treatment for the over 50s. Addaction is delighted to deliver this comprehensive programme, supported by the considerable commitment and expertise of our consortium partners.”

Baroness Sally Greengross, Chief Executive of the International Longevity Centre UK, said: “There is no doubt that baby boomers are ‘behaving badly’, challenging preconceptions of what it means to be old and engaging in risky behaviours in terms of ‘drink, drugs and sex’.

“While drinking isn’t a problem per se, as a think tank that specialises in healthy ageing, we know that too much alcohol affects older people disproportionately and may have serious consequences for their physical and mental health and general wellbeing. Things can become particularly problematic, for example, when older people are on complex medication regimes and then drink too much. At best this may make their drugs temporarily ineffective and at worst it can lead to emergency hospital admissions.”

My journey to recovery

5 November 2014

Chair of Stoke Expert Citizens, Lindsey Marsden shares her inspiring journey of recovery.

Hey everyone it’s just over 18 months since I last stood up and shared my story

Reflection… is what the launch has made me do. Here I am 18 months into my recovery.
Lindsey telling this story at a podiumI am now Chair of Stoke Expert Citizens helping change the stigma and services within this city. I am also proud to be a member of the team for Voices project. Changing times for people living chaotic lifestyles.

Standing here I want to say I’m one of the unique lucky few who have had one service – Brighter Futures co-ordinating my life, mental health, homelessness, offending behaviour and my substance and alcohol mis-use. This is what Voices can do for people like myself living with multiple and complex needs – a service co-ordinator that brings separate services together as one.

Barriers need to be broken down; gaps need to be closed to allow people to be treated as valued human beings and members of society today so that they are treated with respect and dignity. Today I’m living in a Brighter Futures resettlement property. I have my own home, my bipolar disorder is under control, I haven’t offended since 2011 but most importantly I have shared custody of my little boy.

Let me take you back two years and believe me it wasn’t good – in recovery from alcohol abuse, and class A drugs were my crutch. They had completely destroyed my life, children and I still carried on till it nearly took my life from me.

As I was at death’s door the hospital got me medically fit (to be moved) and transferred me into the Edward Myers detox unit – not giving me a choice and saving my life. I spent the longest 5 weeks of my life detoxing. I was homeless; I had lost my family, home, belongings and any contact with my little boy.

On the 16th August 2012 I picked up my black bin bags and got a bed at Hopwood House, this is where I spent the next 12 months building myself up, educating myself but most importantly keeping myself clean.

Nine months into living at Hopwood House I was introduced to Stoke Expert Citizens and to be honest I was honoured to join the group. It’s allowed me to use my own experiences to support services and people living with multiple complex needs.

Today opening up to you all… I am Lindsey, a person just like yourselves,  just sometimes I get lonely and sad and mixed up in the crazy world of bipolar. I have feelings opinions and ideas just like any other human being. As Chair of Stoke Expert Citizens I will walk to the ends of the earth to get the message out – times need to be changed for multiple and complex needs. I’m not a patient, client or referral – I am Lindsey, a mum, a sister and a friend.

Its 2014, time to save rough-sleepers from the streets, time for the Voices project to be heard and listened to. Together we all have the knowledge and experience to change services for the better in Stoke on Trent.

Before I end I just want to leave you with a little quote.

“You will make it to the other side of hardship. One day you will look back with wiser eyes, greater understanding and gratitude. Hang in there cause believe me there is a life on the other side and dreams do happen”.

Thanks for reading

Lindsey Boulton-Marsden

Chair Stoke Expert Citizens core group

For more on Expert Citizens follow us on Twitter @ExpertCitizens

When is a worker a sessional worker, and not a worker?

29 October 2014

Many applicants to Awards for All are confused by the fact that although we won’t pay for salaries, we will pay for the fees of people who come in to run ad-hoc sessions.

Girls learning martial arts

So when is a worker a sessional worker?

A sessional worker is a person who is not likely to be employed by you under a contract of employment. Instead, they will invoice your organisation for their fee and you can use your grant to pay for that. For example, if there is a call for yoga sessions you might want to use a yoga teacher to come along to your group and run them. You could use the grant to pay for their services.

Woman showing kids farm work

Although sessional workers are not likely to have the same employment rules as staff employed on a salary, it is still necessary to make safeguarding agreements with them. For example, you’ll need to make sure that you protect their health and safety.

You might already know sessional workers from using their services in the past. If your sessional worker receives a salary from you already you will need to consider if the service they are providing is additional to their existing role in order for it to be fundable. They will need to invoice you for the extra service they are providing.

You can find an application form and more detailed guidance at Awards for All, England on our website.

Karen Addison from our England Big Advice team wrote this blog’… have you read our other Big Advice blogs?


A day in the life of a Green Doctor

28 October 2014

Hi, my name is Nadira and I work as one of two Green Doctors on the Sustainable Sheppey project for an environmental charity called Groundwork South.

Nadira and DJ at Sheppey FM radio station

Nadira at Sheppey FM radio station

You’re probably wondering what a Green Doctor is. The scheme started about nine years ago in Leicester. Each Green Doctor role varies, but the aim is always the same: to provide free, impartial one-to-one sustainability advice to residents.

The Green Doctor name can be a great conversation starter. As soon as I mention my job title, I usually expect comments such as “You’re not green” or “Can you help me with a medical issue?”

Since January 2014 my colleague Danny Lenain and I have been the Green Doctors for the Sustainable Sheppey project in Kent. We plan to visit 1,900 homes in Sheppey before the project finishes in October 2015, and to save each household one tonne of CO2 emissions through behaviour change and energy efficiency measures. These visits are for any resident whether they privately own, rent or live in social housing. So far, Danny and I have visited over 700 households on the Isle of Sheppey, making a total potential cost saving of £97,658 and potential CO2 savings of 392,804kgs!

Nadira with Irish Wolfhound

Nadira and a big dog!

During the visits we offer advice to residents to save money on their gas, electricity and water bills. This includes guidance on energy company grants and any other local cavity wall or loft insulation grants run by the local council. We also give out freebies for each resident to help them save energy and water. These include LED lightbulbs, shower timers, radiator panels and a ‘save a flush’ bag.

One of the things I enjoy about my work is that every day is different. One day I might be out meeting new and interesting residents and their lovely pets, like the Irish wolfhound in the picture, the next I could be promoting the Green Doctor visits at local events, community centres or on the local radio station.

In September 2014 I was proud to hear that I had been selected as one of the three finalists for the Fuel Poverty Champion category of the UK Community Energy Awards. Although I didn’t win, the nomination was such a thrill for me. The awards ceremony was an excellent way to highlight many excellent projects and to show how we can take best practice ideas from others.

The Sustainable Sheppey project was funded through Big Lottery Fund’s Communities Living Sustainably programme.

More information about the Green Doctors can be found at Groundwork’s website

How can we make a difference for vulnerable families?

27 October 2014

James Ronicle, Senior Research Manager at Ecorys UK, describes how a one day event will bring together the latest evidence on effective approaches for supporting vulnerable families.

Ecorys' James Ronicle

Ecorys’ James Ronicle

In recent times the Big Lottery Fund has invested heavily in support for vulnerable families. The Improving Futures programme is a £26m programme funding 26 projects to improve outcomes for families with multiple and complex problems where the eldest child is aged 5 – 10. The A Better Start programme has invested £215m in five areas, and aims to improve the life chances of over 60,000 babies and young children aged 0-3. The Big Lottery Fund is not alone in investing in this policy area; in England, the Troubled Families programme aims to turn around the lives of the 120,000 most ‘troubled families’ and has recently been further extended to engage a further 400,000 families ; whilst in Wales, Families First aims to develop effective multi-agency approaches to improve outcomes for families.

Across these programmes, and others, projects are adopting a diverse range of approaches to engage families and improve their lives. Many are implementing ‘tried and tested’ approaches (such as having a ‘key worker’ that acts as a single point of contact for the family). Other projects are trialling new approaches, such as training community champions to work with families on a ‘para-professional’ standing, or basing key workers in doctor’s surgeries so doctors can signpost families more effectively.

But how do we know what works? After these programmes have finished, what should we scale up? If these are ‘pathfinders’, which paths should we follow, and which ones should we not?

Young mum playing with child on swingThe one day event – ‘Making a Difference for Vulnerable Families: Evidence into Policy and Practice’ seeks to answers these questions. The event provides exclusive insight into the findings from leading national family support programmes, including:

  • Troubled Families
  • Improving Futures
  • Families First

We will reveal some of the first findings from the Improving Futures programme, such as how the programme managed to reduce the number of families with children with persistent, disruptive and violent behaviour by 49%, and increase the number of families regularly participating in family activities by 53%.

You will have a chance to hear from:

  • Leading figures in family policy (Naomi Eisenstadt, Kate Morris);
  • Government departments (DCLG and Welsh Government); and
  • Evaluators of some of these national family programmes (such as Ecorys UK, leading the Troubled Families evaluation, Improving Futures evaluation consortium and supporting Ipsos MORI in the Families First evaluation).

With 4 keynote speakers and 14 workshops on offer, hear the latest research and evidence on:

  • Engaging with men
  • Mental health
  • Young carers
  • The role of key workers
  • The role of volunteers.

The event will also include an exhibition hall, with 25 exhibition stands featuring national family programmes and local family projects (including ones run by Action for Children, Barnardo’s and many local voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations).

Places are still available for the event and this is the final week of the Early Bird discount, with tickets priced at £25 (exc. VAT) for VCSEs and £45 (exc. VAT) for other organisations. The event is taking place in Birmingham on Monday 8 December, 10am to 4pm, at the Birmingham Voluntary Service Council (BVSC).

For more information visit:

Don’t miss this unique opportunity to come together with practitioners, researchers and policy-makers working in this area to share knowledge and experience from across the UK.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 515 other followers