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Back from the brink

11 July 2014

Weight related bullying plagued Callum throughout his school life, eventually bringing him to the brink of suicide. Now 17, Callum, from Wolverhampton helps others his age cope with similar problems.



My background all starts from when I was in primary school in year three. I wasn’t the slimmest of lads my age and a lot of my bullying in primary school was all to do with weight. But part of it was also to do with the fact that I couldn’t spell certain words or because I wouldn’t go and play with some of the kids.

A lot of the time teachers didn’t spot that I was being bullied. And, to be honest, I never felt that any teacher actually understood what I was going through.

When I got into high school I spent a lot of my time in my bedroom. I cut myself off. I got to a point where I was feeling really depressed and I just wanted to kill myself. My mum actually took away all my games consoles and the wires because of the thoughts I was having. It was quite tough at the time because I heard a lot of kids talk about the stuff they got to do at home and there was me just sitting there alone in my bedroom.

It carried on until I was in year eight and then I left the school I was in and the bullies and everyone else behind and went to a new school. I got bullied a lot there at the start. But after a while I just started to ignore it.

I went through counselling and it didn’t really help me at all, but peer support might have been a bit different. I might have got a group which would have been a lot more friendly.

Because of what happened to me I got involved in a peer support network. I just enjoy helping out young people who need it. I can give them advice about where they can go to get help and how they can be safe online with Facebook. I’ve helped someone get past a phobia of going out, which has given them more independence. With my support they can now go on the bus on their own and go to college and even out to meet friends. Before they wouldn’t go out to meet friends because they were scared of what might happen.

Projects like this are really important because a lot of kids need support. Peer support is great because you feel good about yourself when you help other people, so it’s really helping two people at the same time.

  • HeadStart is funding 10 new mental health projects, each receiving £500,000 to help young people deal with life’s ups and downs.
  • Peer support is just one of the services offered to young people through HeadStart
  • If you are a young person experiencing problems like Callum’s you can get help from 

Play makes it possible

9 July 2014

The National Lottery has launched Play makes it possible – linking playing the Lottery with the life-changing community projects supported by the Good Causes, including Big Lottery Fund.

One of the projects featured in the TV advert is Tenovus, the Wales-based cancer charity that aims to prevent, treat and find a cure for cancer. Tenovus have received £1 million from Big Lottery Fund to expand their Sing With Us choirs.

Jean Phillips is a member of the Bridgend Sing With Us choir along with her husband Huw, who has cancer. Jean recently wrote us the following letter.

Jean and Huw with Shoshana (Shosh) the Bridgend Sing With Us choir leader”

Jean and Huw with Shoshana (Shosh) the Bridgend Sing With Us choir leader”

I am the wife of a cancer sufferer and we are supported by Tenovus in so many ways. Huw is very poorly now but we are both members of one of their Sing With Us choirs – namely Bridgend. However, we have been associated and helped by them since Huw was invited to be a member of their “Big C Choir”.

I cannot even begin to tell you how helpful and supportive they have been. They have helped us to claim an attendance allowance successfully and their support line is always open to us. There have been times when I have felt completely alone in trying to help Huw with the pain and other side effects of his advanced prostate cancer – we try to be completely independent – however their helpline has helped me enormously to aid Huw on those occasions.

However, the biggest support for both of us is being members of Tenovus Sing With Us Bridgend Choir. It is one of the 16 choirs they now run and it is like a second family to all of us who belong to it. Like many others, there have been times when Huw has been too ill to go to rehearsal. Or perhaps he has gone but been a bit poorly whilst there. Or perhaps it has been me who has broken down whilst there….music is very emotional but healing nevertheless.

Members are all in similar situations, or grieving still, and they all rally round at those times. Being in this choir has also led to deeper friendships among members, including ourselves, which is the finest support anyone can have. It would not have happened without Tenovus Sing With Us choirs. We have coffee mornings, car treasure hunts, lunches, raffles to help with travel costs for gigs and an upcoming 1st anniversary dinner.

Jean and Huw

Jean and Huw

The amount of good the Lottery money has done is indefinable in this instance. Support for each other cannot be quantified in terms of money or numbers and nor can the extremely strong “feel-good factor” which comes with the singing we so love. Tenovus chooses the songs particularly suited to our situations and their specially commissioned “Sing For Life” (written for them by singer-songwriter Cat Southall) is just so apt that it has brought many in the audiences to tears.

I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for being the ‘cause’ and allowing this to happen. We have made so many good friends through it all and that includes many of the marvellous Tenovus staff. They do so much for us and very often in their own time, not in working hours. Tenovus could not have used your money more wisely!

Find out how to join a Sing with Us choir near you

Providing respite holidays for families

4 July 2014

Disability charity, Papworth Trust received £2 million from the Big Lottery Fund to purchase and renovate Kerry Farm and fund respite holidays for families. Paul, Sue, Sue’s grandson Warren and personal assistant Luke went to Kerry Farm in June 2014.

This is Paul’s story.

Warren Todd on Kerry Farm

Warren at Kerry Farm

It seems impossible to relate in less than 400 words what the Papworth Trust have created in Kerry Farm, how much it meant to my family and what it will mean to those yet to visit.

But I’ll try…

After years in the role, the daily caring routine often de-personalises kinship carers. Finances may suffer because long caring hours might preclude working. The family is at high risk of fragmentation or social isolation: nobody you know really understands the stark reality of caring, long-term for a disabled child or other relative.

Everything the carer has is given freely to the disabled person and they wear out: physically and, maybe especially, emotionally. In extreme cases, real depression follows.

Carers cope somehow. They have to.

We didn’t really know quite what to expect at Kerry Farm. It was to be Warren’s first-ever holiday and ours as a family unit.

We were welcomed on arrival and smiling within minutes. Within hours, the ‘real world’ seemed a distant dream.

There was no sense of pressure whatsoever; the staff made it clear that we could be as involved in organised activities as we wished. If we wanted to do anything specific, they would try and arrange it for us. Whatever we did, we were required to do one thing – relax and be ourselves.

To be together as a family, without normal routine and in a disabled-friendly environment was unique in itself.

There was no judgement, no expectation. The staff were fantastic. They listened if we needed to talk, together or individually. They helped with anything we needed, showing natural empathy, without prejudice or pre-conception, something rarely encountered. Nothing was too much trouble.

Meeting other families with similar lives was brilliant. Shared experiences were openly discussed with real understanding of each others’ situations. We discovered we really aren’t alone!


Kerry Farm

Kerry Farm provides a uniquely invaluable escape from the pressures that families like ours suffer from to a greater or lesser extent. It offers a retreat: a getaway, where the world can be forgotten for a few days. A few days to pause, rest, meet and make new friends, experience a different environment and above all, relax together.

Every kinship carer and their family need access to a Kerry Farm.

I am going to repeat that loud and clear…

Every kinship carer and their family need access to a Kerry Farm!

Oh… did I mention the animals?

If you’d like to read more about our week at Kerry Farm, please visit

You can find out more about Kerry Farm on their website

In March 2013 the project featured in an episode of Channel 4’s The Secret Millions. You can watch again on Channel 4, Monday 7 July at 00:35.

Why joined up services work

3 July 2014

Justin Nield is a Service User Engagement Co-ordinator working on the Fulfilling Lives: supporting people with Multiple Needs programme in Blackpool, who have received £9,997,458 from the Big Lottery Fund.

Justin Nield and Glyn Smithson

Justin Nield and Glyn Smithson

I haven’t always been a Programme Co-ordinator and I lived with Multiple and Complex needs for most of my adult life. I spent over 20 years in active addiction, suffered with enduring mental health issues and ended up living on the streets, frightened, confused and vulnerable.

In 2011, with the co-ordinated support of multiple agencies working together and a team of dedicated workers, I finally managed to get clean and sober, find stable accommodation and a sustainable treatment package. Currently, I am in full time employment as a valued member of the Blackpool Fulfilling Lives team and I am studying for my degree.

There are clearly shortfalls and gaps in Blackpool’s current service delivery and the way in which we support people with multiple and complex needs. In my experience there are a number of reasons for this: lack of communication, lack of collaboration, lack of available funds, massive cuts in funding, negative mentality of workers and an unwillingness to share best practice.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some fantastic organisations currently operating in Blackpool and lots of dedicated, passionate workers. But we all need to be working together in co-production, with a shared vision and working practice to really sustain positive outcomes and systemic change.

Working together in partnership we can change the way in which we support vulnerable adults living in the UK with Multiple and Complex needs. An example of how it’s already working in Blackpool; One area of increasing activity and cost in is emergency ambulance call outs, with activity growing at approximately 6% a year. Out of fifty Frequent Callers, a small cohort (six) were identified as vulnerable adults living with complex needs, the impact this group have on emergency and unscheduled service is huge (approximately 40 call outs per month). The ambulance service and emergency costs alone reach £13,480 per month on a rolling basis. Fulfilling Lives working in co-production with the Frequent Caller initiative supported these six people back into current services and co-ordinated specific care planning. As a result of this work these people are not only better supported, but over a period of three months, costs have reduced from £447 to £44. It’s not rocket science!

I believe that getting the right co-ordinated support, at the right time, saved my life.
Fulfilling Lives is potentially the ‘Game Changer’ for the way in which we support people living with multiple and complex needs, not only in Blackpool but across the whole of the UK.

Prepared for the worst

24 June 2014

With the increasing frequency of extreme weather events, the risk of flooding is a problem faced by many communities. Charles Richards, co-founder and treasurer of the Cornwall Community Flood Forum, explains how they’ve used Lottery funding to mitigate its impact.


Flooding is a problem that can have a profound and lasting impact on people, relationships, households, communities, businesses and local economies. All too often it presents a risk to life.

We applied for an Awards for All grant of £9,750 to help us provide support to communities in Cornwall at risk of flooding.

The focus of our bid was to establish a network of trained and equipped community volunteers who would be ideally placed to support both their community and the Emergency Services before, during and after an incident. The funding was used to develop a training package for volunteers, provide them with high visibility waterproof clothing and other equipment, set up two websites as well as produce a handbook providing flood guidance which we delivered to 7,600 properties at risk of flooding.

In developing and delivering the training package we were delighted to receive a huge amount of support from the Environment Agency, Cornwall Council, Devon and Cornwall Police and Devon & Somerset Fire and Rescue Service. The project grew over time and due to the level of support we received we were able to extend the training beyond Cornwall to include communities in Devon and Somerset.

Cornwall Community Flood Forum group at Lostwithiel's medieval bridge over the River Fowey

Cornwall Community Flood Forum group at Lostwithiel’s medieval bridge over the River Fowey

The impact of our Awards for All grant goes beyond just funding. Having Big Lottery support has raised the profile of our project and given it credibility. It helped us to secure additional private funding, and I am sure it played a significant part in us getting £238,000 through Defra’s Flood Resilience Community Pathfinder Fund.

In 2013 we were invited by the Cabinet Office, Defra and DCLG to present our project as a case study at their national Community Resilience and Climate Change workshops. We are now working on a Reaching Communities bid to extend what we have done and help support other areas of the country in becoming better prepared, including some of those affected by storms and widespread flooding last winter.

Our grant has been the catalyst that helped our project grow to a scale and scope we could not possibly have imagined at the start.

A Better Future for Blackpool’s Children

19 June 2014

The Blackpool Better Start Partnership, led by the NSPCC has today been awarded £45 million to help parents give their children the best start in life through our A Better Start programme.

We hear from a local dad, Dave Bannister, 47, who lives with his wife Tracy and their daughter Rebekah, 4. Dave is one of many parents who have supported the partnership in developing their proposal.


Dave Bannister and his daughter Rebekah.

Dave moved to Blackpool from London in 2006 to work on the Blackpool transport system. When Tracy became pregnant four years ago he admits that he struggled to feel connected to the unborn child. But the moment Rebekah was born his feelings changed “I cut the umbilical cord and my heart leapt for joy and that initial happiness and joy is still there four years later”

Dave’s wife Tracy has been engaged with the mental health services in Blackpool since they moved to the area so he is glad of the easy accessibility of a wide range of services that the Children’s centre offers. Not just for the children but for the whole family.

Since getting involved Dave and has made new friends and Rebekah gets to spend time with other children and joins in a lot of the services they offer such as arts and crafts which Dave thinks can be crucial for developing social skills. He has also learnt a lot about good nutrition and the importance of communications skills in building the foundations for future development and health.

Dave has been involved in the bid from the start and says that “We wanted to engage all of the community and that includes fathers as well, often a lot of the services are geared towards women and I know from personal experience that the services could be more inclusive”

Dave said that there is a community spirit in Blackpool and there are people with vision who are trying to engage. He believes this funding will help to leave a legacy for future generations.

“It is important that parents are involved in this as they understand and genuinely want to build a better future for their children. A parent that is local and honest talking means they are more likely to engage and it really gives the community a voice”




A Better Start

17 June 2014

We have announced an investment of £215 million into five areas to give tens of thousands of babies a better start in life. Three experts Naomi Eisenstadt, CB, First Director of Sure Start, George Hosking, CEO Wave Trust and Kate Billingham,Senior Advisor for the Family Nurse Partnership International (FNP), have all been invaluable to the development of our A Better Start initiative.

Family Nurse Partnership (FNP) is a health visiting programme which is internationally recognised for the high quality one to one support FNP nurses provide first time parents.

Each of the A Better Start areas will be, to varying degrees, developing the scope and reach of FNP services in their communities.  

Kate Billingham recently visited a young mum to hear about her experience of FNP.

As an ex-health visitor I have never forgotten what a privilege a home visit is.

Kate Billingham I was reminded of this recently when I visited a young mother at home to hear her experience of the Family Nurse Partnership (FNP) programme. I watch her children play happily, keeping in touch with their mum who is intuitively attentive to the ebb and flow of her child’s needs.

She is proud of her children. “The nursery says that E. is a cheeky, happy girl, she has lots of friends, she’s always first at the table to make things and loves stories”.

And she is proud of her own life as a mum.  But the odds were stacked against her from before she was born. She had a difficult early life, seeing and feeling things that no child should have to see or feel.  She carried these troubles with her as she got older, leaving school at 13, self-harming, finding herself homeless and pregnant at 17. It has taken courage and hard work to get where she is today.

She reflects on how hard change can be. “Sometimes I shut down as it got too much. I felt like a snake with the skin being peeled off.”

She was fortunate to have been guided by the Family Nurse Partnership programme and a skilful family nurse.

It was good to be reminded of what it takes for a new parent with a troubled past to become the best mum or dad they can be. It takes trust, commitment, skill and self-awareness for the young woman making the journey to parenthood, for the family nurse walking beside her and for the organisation that provides the resource and supports the practitioner.

I suspect that the most demanding part of A Better Start will be the changes that everyone will have to make – from the baby to the boardroom –  parents, practitioners, managers, commissioners and the rest of us who are involved in this wonderful project.

Just as it did for the young mum I visited, it will take trust, commitment, skill and courage as well as time.

Vulnerable babies to have a better start in life

17 June 2014

Our England Director Dharmendra Kanani reflects how A Better Start is putting parents at the heart.

Change can take a long-time. With the awards we announce today we’re providing long-term funding, to enable communities and organisations to orientate themselves around the key relationships in the early years of life. These relationships can affect a person’s life chances for better or for worse.

This approach will enable parents, communities and services to think about how to reorder, redesign, and even re-imagine how they can collaborate, connect and cohere around the key relationships in early life and provide a better start for babies.

Dharmendra with Sonia Siddique, Ayaan, 4 and Aydin, 1 copy - sml

Dharmendra with Sonia Siddique, Ayaan, 4 and Aydin, 1 copy – sml

This is an opportunity for communities and systems to put babies and families at the heart of their work with a focus on love and engagement, diet and nutrition, and language and communication. This will test whether, on a local basis in a small number of areas in England, we can make a compelling case for prevention and imagine a different and better way to provide a better start for babies and their families.

That the funding is for 10 years is significant: it’s patient, to enable credible results; it’s durable, not subject to a cycle of political change; and it’s formative, that local places can learn, review, and revise their implementation. And it may, perhaps, provide services with an opportunity for reform based on a very different premise – that by bringing parents, communities, the voluntary sector and public systems together with the best data and evidence about what probably works best, real change can happen for families and communities.

Like any change, this needs pioneers and outliers. Funders, like the National Lottery, can occupy the space of an outlier, given its role and purpose, but on this occasion our role was to provide the space, time and money for partnerships to be creative, thoughtful and serious. In A Better Start we have hard-wired learning from previous successes and failures; we have convened and been brave, supported by an ambition of parents, communities, agencies and thinkers who feel and know this is the right thing do but never had the opportunity or capital.

The pioneers in this story of change are the parents and babies. For A Better Start to work, its ethos, sentiment and organising philosophy for system change has to be based on a belief in the potential of the formative relationship between a baby and parent.

A Better Start can save money and has already levered tens of millions locally and nationally. But its outcomes can mean a generation of people ten years from now having a very different outcome than what might be without A Better Start.


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