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Policy blog: what works for wellbeing?

20 May 2016

City Gateway 3Big Lottery Fund’s Wellbeing and Wellbeing 2 funding programmes aimed to support the development of healthier lifestyles and improve wellbeing.

Following the recent publication of the Wellbeing 2 final evaluation, Ewan Davison from the What Works Centre for Wellbeing reflects on the funding, the evaluation and what it might tell those who work in this area.

Wellbeing 2 followed the £160m Wellbeing funding, continuing to support communities to create healthier lifestyles and improve their wellbeing. It funded interventions to improve levels of healthy eating, activity and mental health, but wellbeing is much wider than one particular aspect or determinant.

Wellbeing means a lot of different things to different people, at What Works Wellbeing we’ve been talking to people across the UK about what matters to them. At a high level it’s their quality of life. So improving quality of our lives and our wellbeing should be the ultimate aim of policy.


For those of us interested in policy making, the wellbeing 2 evaluation report is important. I want to take a look beyond the numbers and start to identify what works, and what doesn’t in delivery and measurement.

What can it teach policy-makers?

The report shares a real wealth of qualitative data, insights from projects on what worked across delivery, promoting behavior change, achieving systems change and sustainability.

The key points to take away from it are:

  • The importance of ensuring engagement in design and delivery (such as using peer educators).
  • Taking asset-based approaches which work with local settings.
  • Developing the skills of staff and partners along with volunteers.
  • For some portfolios, working with local systems to enable sustainability and change to those systems, such as basing staff in local authorities and working with authorities (and communities) to meet outcomes identified in their Joint Strategic Needs Assessments.

Gauging success from how people feel

A really encouraging part of this study was the use of personal wellbeing as a measure; simply put it was asking individuals how they feel using the ONS 4 wellbeing questions. Across the Wellbeing 2 portfolios adults reported an increase in their levels of life satisfaction from 6.2 (on a scale of 0-10) at the start of the interventions to 6.5 at the end to 7.0 at three months post intervention. Life satisfaction is a key measure for us. There were also positive change reported in feelings of being worthwhile, happiness and anxiety levels. For example: 54% of young people reported a positive change in their mental wellbeing.

The importance of time when evaluating

For me, another key finding from this report and the follow up round table was that time is a very important factor (perhaps a luxury which this funding has allowed). It enables a test, learn, and adapt approach in delivery and in terms of measuring impact. Policy makers need to make time to engage people in the design of delivery and evaluation to keep activities relevant and effective.

There is some great work going on out there (as shown by this report) and as a nation we’re spending a lot of money and effort on activity so we need to learn from it collectively and in a systematic way. We need to measure with enough consistency to enable a meaningful comparison across interventions which looks at impact and cost, and reflects the strength of evidence. We can also use existing activities and management data to make running trials easier and cheaper, which in turn make the research findings more useful to practice and decision making.

We’ve also been examining what works for policy makers when using research, the science of using science knowledge, and how decision makers use evidence.

We all need to get better at capturing learning on wellbeing impacts and growing the evidence base. This is the start.

What Works Wellbeing is currently running calls for evidence on aspects of wellbeing. It will start to publish findings later in the year. It has just launched a forum to connect practitioners, academics and policy makers.

You can read the full final evaluation on Wellbeing 2 here. We have a series of blogs following the evaluation, and they are available through our Big Blog.

If you have any questions about the programme, the evaluation or the policy implications of this work, please get in touch by email

Women and girls: Changing Pathways

19 May 2016

To celebrate the 63 projects that are just starting work on their projects helping women and girls across England regain and retain control of their lives, a number of projects will share their stories with us over the next couple of weeks.

Jessica Barclay-Lambert, chief executive at Changing Pathways (formerly Basildon Women’s Aid)

Jessica Lambert -Changing Pathways

Last year Changing Pathways dealt with another insidious case of domestic abuse where the perpetrator impacted the lives of many people. This case was not particularly unusual in the VAWG sector – a perpetrator commits heinous violence and abuse against his wife (Abi) and children for years, eventually he is arrested and convicted.

From prison, the perpetrator arranged for Abi to be stalked and threatened by his network. But, it wasn’t just Abi being stalked, her family and friends became targets too.

When the perpetrator was released from prison, as you would expect, there were conditions set whereby the perpetrator was not to go near Abi or their children. Agencies came together before the prison release to safeguard Abi and the children. Abi said she had accepted that her fate was death; she knew he wouldn’t stop until he killed her, but she agreed to move hundreds of miles away with her children. She said she’d do it for everyone else, but not herself as she had accepted inevitability.

Agencies worked well together, the Probation Officer kept practitioners informed. We arranged for safe accommodation and support for Abi and her children by another Women’s Aid provider.

He still found her. At the time, nobody knew how. Despite all the disruption tactics and conditions in place, he still found her. He told his probation officer that his determination to see Abi would never waiver. It transpired that a member of his network had fitted a tracking device to Abi’s car. Having breached his conditions by travelling to Abi’s location, the perpetrator was arrested. He was released hours later.

After much harassment of Abi’s family and friends (including threats to their children), Abi felt the only way to keep everyone close to her safe was to return back home. Fortunately, Abi summoned the strength not to, but her decision hung in the balance, and to this day, it still does.

As a domestic abuse support service, Changing Pathways is restricted in terms of the support we can provide to all victims who are not an immediate member of the intimate/family relationship. We don’t have the staff capacity or funding to reach extended relationships, nor do we have the depth of stalking specific practice knowledge or understanding of legal remedies. Abi, her mother and her friends all needed our support but this was an impossible challenge, weighing all the more heavy as no other agency existed in our locality who could offer this specialist dedicated support either.

Recognising the impact of stalking and how we felt so limited and restricted, we submitted an application the Women and Girls Initiative to establish a dedicated stalking advocacy team based in South Essex. We have made connections with the national organisations Paladin, Protection Against Stalking, Suzy Lamplugh Trust and Veritas and we are looking at how we collaborate as effectively as possible to develop this much needed service for all victims of stalking regardless of their relationship with the perpetrator and their postcode.

If you would like to find out more about the other projects funded today through our women and girls initiative, please click here 

What we’re thinking about this Dementia Awareness Week

18 May 2016
Castlehaven Community Centre (24)

Ways of helping people to live well with dementia have been on our minds recently, so Dementia Awareness Week seems like an appropriate time to share some thoughts! Perhaps unsurprisingly, this has been an emerging theme on our UK Accelerating Ideas programme, which aims to get great ideas and practice for our ageing society more widely shared and adopted across the UK. A variety of organisations doing great things with people experiencing dementia have approached us about their projects. We’ve supported some already, such as Learning through Landscapes, who are transforming care home gardens to support people with dementia. We’ve also awarded The Reading Agency, Six Degrees Social Enterprise and Life Story Network development grants to work on their project ideas.


We’ve heard about different activities that have been shown to have a really positive impact for people with dementia – from reminiscence to sport and music. We’ve learnt that sometimes the activities themselves are incidental and it’s the social element of a project that really makes difference. We’ve been reminded that everyone is different and some things work for some and not others. We also think that approaches that move away from designated activities and are incorporated into everyday life and care are particularly interesting. For example, not just thinking about nutrition around set meal times, or looking at the role that all carers and people in communities can play to make big and small changes throughout the day.


It’s clear that plenty of people are funding and doing a wide range of good stuff across the UK already, so this has got us thinking – what should our role be? We’ve been considering this from the starting point of our strategic framework, which is all about people and communities being in the lead. We think our funding could help to raise the voices of and empower people affected by dementia. Initiatives like Dementia Friendly Communities and Dementia Action Alliances are trying to make communities inclusive and improve the lives of people with dementia, so it’s crucial to ensure that they have an active role to play in shaping these initiatives. Networks and organisations like DEEP and Innovations in Dementia are already offering opportunities for engagement, but there’s more work to do. Continuously ensuring that practice is driven from the bottom up could really start to shift attitudes and behaviours in communities. It seems that there’s still plenty to learn about what really helps to create inclusive communities too.


On Accelerating Ideas, we think there’s a real opportunity to focus on learning across the UK as well, to support organisations doing good work to share and collaborate more. We’d also like to support great practice from overseas to get a foothold in the UK, for example, the Dutch Meeting Centres Support Programme is one model currently being tested.


What do you think about where Big Lottery Funding could make a difference for people living with dementia? Know anything that fits the bill described here?

Please share your comments below or get in touch by emailing us at

Wellbeing 2: healthy eating

6 May 2016


A healthy, balanced diet is an important aspect of maintaining health and wellbeing. Our Wellbeing 2 funding aimed to increase awareness of, and access to, healthy foods.


What the funding delivered

  • 43% of adults said they had made positive changes to their eating habits because of a project.


What can Wellbeing 2 can tell us about healthy eating?

  1. Shorter courses for families (such as a cooking session, recipe creation, or a healthy shopping trip) can be popular and help people take their first steps towards adopting a healthier attitude.
  2. But if we want to develop skills around food, then longer term courses that gradually pass over responsibility for eating and diet are more likely to be the answer.
  3. We need to make healthy eating activities enjoyable and fun! If the tone of the activity is dull or demanding then it’s less likely to illicit long term change.
  4. Good projects tick two boxes. They address both “what’s effective” and “what people want to take part in”.
  5. Through all this work, we should demonstrate how healthy eating can be achieved on a budget.
  6. Quick wins can be good. So providing clear, simple recipes that only use a few ingredients may be quick and simple, but can also be a big step in the right direction.
  7. Food is sociable. As well as improving eating habits, group activities also promote social interaction (which in turn aids wellbeing). There’s a feedback loop.
  8. We should provide appropriate food-related activities that are culturally aware of the people who may want to take part.


The funding in action

Bolsover Church of England Junior School in Derbyshire has over 290 pupils and has been a Food for Life gold award holder since 2010. Some years ago, the school had no facilities for cooking, growing or farming. They now have a specially designated cookery classroom with dedicated design technology teachers, garden, polytunnel, an orchard and a ‘farm’ where they raise chickens, pigs and goats.

Headteacher Rowena Herbert tells us how the school has changed its culture, with a little help from Food for Life.

The Community Fruit and Veg project 035“The children have developed new skills, gained in confidence, and are seeing what they have grown. Food for Life has raised awareness of the whole of food culture – what we eat, how we produce and cook it – and the children really enjoy this. Many people comment on how food orientated we are, which I feel is invaluable because we have been identified as an area with a high obesity problem.”

Pupils had the opportunity to cook, grow and farm. The activity links to the curriculum and gets staff, pupils and parents working together. The school ran competitions to encourage children to design new school-meals, with the winning entries being added to our lunch menu. Many of the dishes on the menu include produce grown in the school garden.

“On Friday afternoons we have enrichment time, in which pupils choose activities ranging from cooking and growing and to sport, first aid and beauty therapy. We have food theme nights, where children set up the canteen like a restaurant and take bookings. We have a school shop, which sells goods and produce made or grown in school workshops. Every fortnight, we offer a roast dinner for people in the local community and in which we have a maximum of 40 guests each time. The children serve the guests, which is a great way for them to mix with the community.

“We see it as paramount importance that our pupils understand where their food comes from and how the choices they make in life can impact on their health and wellbeing. We provide a rich, enhanced curriculum in which food is at the forefront of everything including developing our pupils’ skills in farming and gardening.”

In 2015 the School became the first ever to win Lead Association for Catering in Education’s ‘School Food Achievement Award’, ‘presented to a primary or secondary school, who in the opinion of the judges, has strived to achieve the most significant improvements in food and education, taking a whole school approach’.


See for yourself

Keeping to the young people theme, this video from Soil Association focuses on improving healthy eating in schools and hospitals in Yorkshire. Activities include training for school cooks and hospital chefs, and working with school and hospital managers to improve standards.



If you missed it…

The background to Wellbeing 2 can be found here.

Our blog on physical activity can be found here.

Our blog on mental wellbeing can be found here.

Wellbeing 2: mental wellbeing

5 May 2016




After yesterday’s look at physical activity, today we focus on another important aspect of our wellbeing…

Better mental health helps people feel more confident, energetic and able to take part in other activities. We wanted, through Wellbeing 2, to help adults and children build social contacts to help improve their mental wellbeing.


What the funding delivered

  • 54% of young people supported through the programme said they had felt positive changes in their mental wellbeing.
  • Around one in three people who reported symptoms of depression at the beginning of their involvement no longer had those symptoms when their involvement ended.
  • 10% more people reported feeling optimistic about the future ‘often or all of the time’.


What can Wellbeing 2 tell us about mental wellbeing?

Providing adequate time for engaging participants – speaking to them about what they’d like to do and what they’d like to achieve, before launching into the work can pay dividends longer term.

  1. Projects that transfer ownership and a sense of responsibility for the activities to their participants often have a strong impact. The sense of responsibility for activities can, in itself, be a cause of improved wellbeing.
  2. In the same vein, good projects train and support peer educators.
  3. Train the trainer! Good projects identify leaders to continue the work in their local area after initial funding has finished.
  4. Engaging people with lived experience of mental health problems helps to convey key messages and reduces stigma.


The funding in action

ipad download May 14 354
As part of its Children and Young People’s project, Mind helped deliver a range of awareness raising activities and campaigns through its Time to Change portfolio. The schools project worked with 25 schools across five regions. Young leaders, aged 14-16, were recruited and trained to run mental health awareness activities and anti-stigma campaigns.

“It got the whole college environment really involved. It gave a nice vibe to the college. It opened everyone’s eyes to mental health stigma and discrimination. They can understand it more and have an idea of what people with mental health problems are going through, whereas before they just probably wouldn’t really understand and wouldn’t really care.” Young Leader

The Young Leaders ran campaigns to coincide with World Mental Health Day and Time to Talk Day, as well as organising a pop-up village event.

Before I became involved with Time to Change I was ashamed of every single part of my experience.” One young person with a mental health problem.

By the end of the grant, the portfolio had reached 28,754 children and young people. 19% of young people surveyed (across three schools) said they had spipad download May 14 373oken about mental health in the last month and 41% talked about mental health to friends or family.

I’ll see people, who I probably would previously have been like, ‘oh my god, I’m not going up to them’ and I’ll purposefully go up to that person and talk to them, because I don’t judge a book by its cover anymore.” A Young Involvement Worker.


See for yourself

Also from Mind, this video focuses on 300 Voices, a project working with African and Caribbean men in Birmingham to tackle mental health stigma. Mind worked with the Police, the local NHS Trust and the Local Authority.


If you missed it…

The background to Wellbeing 2 can be found here.

Our blog on physical activity can be found here.

Our blog on healthy eating can be found here.

Wellbeing 2: physical activity

4 May 2016


As part of our focus this week on wellbeing, today we’re looking at physical activity

Physical activity, such as walking or gardening, can improve your ‘general fitness’ while also helping your mental wellbeing. Much of the Wellbeing 2 funding supported communities to become more physically active by offering improved access or opportunities to physical activities.


What the funding delivered

  • A 41% increase in adults taking part in some ‘vigorous activity’.
  • A decrease from 36% to 21% of young people undertaking no moderate activity.
  • The number of people who had a high level of physical activity increased from 27% (at the beginning of the programme) to 36% (three to six months after it ended).


What can Wellbeing 2 tell us about physical activity?

  1. Often the most popular activities are led by those who are participating. Encourage participants to design, plan and deliver their own activities.
  2. Different ways of providing projects can reach different groups. For example, taster sessions for physical activities can work well, while residential trips for younger people can have a big impact on their wellbeing.
  3. We should be mindful that small amounts of money may need to be spent; by both projects and individuals to buy items that enable participation (such as gym equipment or clothing).
  4. Building elements into daily routines can help people to keep up the good work. Small changes but big impacts!
  5. Training local people as volunteers to deliver activities can help sustain activities in the longer term.
  6. We need to consider what additional support participants with physical or learning disabilities, or poor mental health, may need to help them participate. For some people, there are very specific barriers to taking part.
  7. How we talk about physical activity matters; how we market it, how be label it. If we get this wrong, we can put some people off.
  8. People can be put off if they feel they don’t belong in the wider group. For example, if they are unsure about whether an activity is for them, seeing a group of ‘superfit’ people also taking part doesn’t help.
  9. Good volunteer management is important. It’s hard to replicate or replace a good volunteer, but volunteers need support too.


The funding in action

Sustrans’ Active Travel Consortium delivered 19 projects in partnership with Living Streets, Ramblers, London Cycling Campaign and Cycling UK.

The Active Travel Consortium portfolio promoted walking and cycling for everyday journeys by helping deliver 19 projects across England. These 19 projects worked with nearly 114,000 people, getting them cycling or walking.

In West Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, ‘Travel Champions’ recruited and supported volunteers to lead walks, cycle rides or events promoting walking or cycling. The activities were designed to reach hard-to-reach groups; so there were school-based walks for mums starting immediately after school drop off time, and a carers’ walking group providing a sociable exercise for carers during respite.

The ‘Inclusive Cycling Champions’ project created a network of cycling centres, helping to improve current centres and support new ones. This reached 17,373 people (against a target of 4,400).

And Walk to Work encouraged employees to, well, walk to work! The Wellbeing 2 funding developed digital resources to help, and these can be found on the Living Streets website.

By the end of the project, the Consortium had recorded 4,170 people who had volunteered to run activities. As well as the increased physical activity, many of those who took part also reported a reduction in loneliness and depression (they were more confident and content because they had volunteered).

If you took part in any of these activities, we want to hear from you. Email to tell us how your physical health improved by taking part of one of our funded projects.


If you missed it…

The background to Wellbeing 2 can be found here.

Our blog on mental wellbeing can be found here.

Our blog on healthy eating can be found here.

What can we learn from Wellbeing 2?

3 May 2016

Wellbeing-blog-picThroughout this week we are going to be taking a closer look at the issue of wellbeing, as today we publish the evaluation of the Wellbeing 2 funding (England). We will be focusing on the three areas where Wellbeing 2 funding concentrated; physical activity, mental wellbeing and healthy eating.


So what was Wellbeing 2?

A £40 million investment between 2013 and 2015. This supported 200 projects across England. Around 810,000 people took part in activities targeting three key areas: physical activity, healthy eating, mental wellbeing. Three months after linking up with a project, a 41% increase in the number of adults taking part in some ‘vigorous activity’, a 43% increase of adults said they had made positive changes to their eating habits because of a project, 54% of young people reported positive changes in their mental wellbeing.


The funding was distributed through 14 ‘portfolios’ (collections of projects). The 14 portfolios were:

Let’s Get Cooking led by Children’s Food Trust

Time to Change led by Mind

Food for Life Partnership led by The Soil Association

Chances4Change led by Portsmouth City Council

Activate London led by Peabody Trust

Well London led by Greater London Authority

Fit as a Fiddle led by Age UK

North West Networks for Healthy Living Partnerships led by Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council

Altogether Better led by South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Active Travel Consortium led by Sustrans

Target:Wellbeing (NW) led by Groundwork UK

Healthy Transitions led by Foyer Federation

Live Well in the South West led by Westbank Healthy Living in the South West

Enable East led by North Essex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust


We’ve refreshed the health and wellbeing research webpages on our website, to support projects working in this area (or those who would like to in the future).

From 1pm on Thursday, we are hosting a live chat on our Community. If you have questions or queries, we have experts from inside and outside Big Lottery Fund who might have some of the answers.

Keep an eye out across our social media platforms this week, #wellbeing, for some of the lessons and the stories we have to share. Let us know what you’ve learned from your own work; we’d love to hear your achievements, whether you’re a Wellbeing 2 project or not. Use the hashtag to share your experiences, but find out more about Wellbeing 2 and this week’s activities email

In the meantime, hear from Anna (from West Cumbria) and Alan (from Exeter) about how Wellbeing 2’s Fit as Fiddle helped them.



If you missed it…

Our blog on physical activity can be found here.

Our blog on mental wellbeing can be found here.

Our blog on healthy eating can be found here.

The power of ‘humble data’

26 April 2016

Last week, Joe Ferns introduced the Big Lottery Fund’s plan for knowledge & learning, along with how we’d use data in the future. Today, Diana Barran, chief executive at SafeLives – the national charity dedicated to ending domestic violence – gives her take on knowledge and ‘humble data’

A number of the points in Joe’s blog really resonated with the experience we have had at SafeLives over the past few years, as we have tried to capture, aggregate, understand and use more data about the work of the many small specialist domestic abuse services around the country.logo

Joe talks about having a sense of purpose and being clear about why you are keeping the data.  We were clear that we wanted the voice and experience of the victim to be captured systematically and then analysed and shared with those who needed to hear it – everyone from the frontline practitioner, and the manager of the service to commissioners, funders and policy makers. We aim to never ask for a practitioner to record any data that they would not normally keep for the purposes of good case management. Our Insight’s dataset has information on over 50,000 adult victims, children and young people collected by about 50 different domestic abuse services.

And it has been the ‘humble data’ – the data about who accesses services, where they access them, how long they have to wait before getting help and what their needs are, that have proved to be powerful and actionable.

A few examples:

  • Domestic abuse has a terrible impact on the mental health of both the victim and their children.  But our data showed major variations in levels of disclosure of mental health problems – from under 10% to over 60%.  The obvious question is why? What emerged is that the setting of the service and confidence of the practitioner are key to eliciting a disclosure.  Domestic abuse practitioners based in hospitals saw twice the level of disclosure than their colleagues in community settings.  Local services are using this information to negotiate co-location in A&E or with the local mental health team.  The result?  Big increases in disclosures and a better response for victims.
  • We can see the lack of provision for older women, many of whom live with abuse for over 20 years before they get help.  This is a simple message for funders to hear and respond to in their grant making.  Other messages about inequality of access that have relevance to funders, commissioners and policy makers are crystal clear in relation to barriers for B&ME victims to the criminal justice system, for working women to refuge provision and for LGBT communities. Click here for more of our data on this issue

None of this is to say that outcome data isn’t important.  Of course it is. The joy of the humble stuff – especially when it is aggregated – is that the evidence is solid, the messages self evident and the resulting action benefits those who we are aiming to support in a way that no charity analysing its work on its own could reasonably do.  And crucially, it can often be achieved without a big price tag attached.



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