Alison Gowman, chairman of the City of London Corporation’s City Bridge Trust committee, shares what is needed to fund services in London that will help its young people thrive …
Mental health is a significant issue for many people today, not least young people.
Research shows that over half of mental health problems in adult life- excluding dementia- start by the age of 14 and 75% by the age of 18. For certain conditions, the period between mental ill health and diagnosis (and therefore support) can amount to several years.
It is clear we need to do more in this area and reducing the stigma is a very important element, as is increasing access to professional support and, particularly, to early intervention.
The voluntary sector plays an ever-increasing role in helping people with mental health problems, especially at a time when NHS services struggle to meet the level of demand.
The voluntary sector’s ability to help and support in this area has certainly improved significantly over the years, which is definitely a step in the right direction.
City Bridge Trust is London’s largest independent grant giver, making grants of £20m a year to tackle disadvantage across the capital. For us as a funder, it is important that we support organisations within the non-statutory sector that have the right expertise, qualifications and professional networks to help young people. They need to be in a position to offer the best possible support to the young individual in need coming to them for help.
We need, also, to recognise the pressures faced by voluntary sector organisations in the UK’s current economic climate - so it’s great that funders and charities are stepping forward and helping, and we hope more will follow suit.
There have been considerable and well-meaning attempts by governments in the past few years to address the issue of poor and fragmented mental health services for young people.
In August 2015 the government announced £133m in funding over five years, in addition to the £1.25bn to improve children and young people’s mental health. The first part of the programme is £30m to improve eating disorder services.
It is great news for the sector that the issue has been raised by the government- putting more money in and consequently raising awareness. By having more public awareness it has reduced the stigma around mental health, which is only positive.
Our emphasis as an independent funder is on recognising the importance of expertise and professional support in the voluntary sector and where possible giving them the tools to continue and develop their work.
We have made 199 grants totalling £17million specifically for mental health work since 2008.
We give as much support as we can to organisations in London that help people with mental health needs. Young people with mental health issues need to be helped as quickly as possible, support at an early age is key to enabling an individual to live a happy, independent life.
Dismantling barriers and reaching out to those most vulnerable is fundamental. When we ourselves look to develop a funding programme it is important to learn from young people themselves and find out what is working for them, what sort of support they need and best practice.
It is also clear more needs to be done to help people with mental health issues gain and sustain employment. We recognise that the barriers to employment faced by young people with mental health issues can be multiple and complex, but many challenges can be overcome with the right support at the right time.
Today there is more awareness amongst employers about mental ill-health and how to support employees but of course there is more that can be done.
We will always encourage employers to be supportive to enable any person with mental health issues to thrive in their job and to live their lives as fully and independently as possible.
Having a meaningful job can be a real boost and a key factor for helping young people move forward with their lives.
This year we hope to introduce a new £1.5million programme called Bridge to Work, which will help young Londoners with mental health problems both into work – and whilst in work - with plans to work with the Centre for Mental Health and to offer Individual Placement & Support – a recognised model of good practice.
We will be funding work which will give employers the support, skills and resources they need to increase opportunities for young people to gain employment and to stay in it.
Having the City of London Corporation as our trustee opens a wealth of opportunities in the City due to its influence and access to businesses- a network in which we will tap into with the Bridge To Work scheme.
Currently across London, trusts, foundations and Livery companies are already doing lots in this area for young people, including; Trust for London, Big Lottery, Comic Relief, Clothworkers and Mercers.
The role that the non-profit and private sectors play in working towards the public good is especially important when public finances are under pressure. Charitable giving has perhaps never been more vital than it is now.
It’s the responsibility of us all to create a fairer, more inclusive and sustainable society.
The work the voluntary sector has been doing for many years here is invaluable and changing lives for the better - work which is reliant on all of us as funders.