Derry MLA welcomes extra £6m boost for mental health services in the community

Derry Sinn Féin MLA Pádraig Delargy has welcomed the additional £6m for mental health community services.

Health Minister Robin Swann has announced details of the latest round of awards under the Mental Health Support Fund.

Almost 80 charities and organisations working across the north to help and support people with their mental health and wellbeing will receive grants as part of a new tranche of funding.

Among the organisations operating locally to receive funding are the NSPCC, The Nerve Centre, The O-Bon on the Foyle Festival Group, Ballymagroarty Hazelbank Community Partnership (BHCP). Action Mental Health, the Koram Centre and PIPS Hope and Support Limited.

Derry MLA Padraig Delargy.

Foyle MLA Mr Delargy said the new money will provide community-based counselling and mental health services.

“It is vital that the department of health continues to be supported to further increase the overall mental health budget,” Mr Delargy said.

He further warned that the wider health service requires the three year budget, blocked by the DUP’s decision to collapse the Executive, to tackle waiting lists, to recruit more doctors and nurses, to fund cancer and mental health services and to transform the health service.

“Our health service is much more important than the electoral difficulties of the DUP, They should get back to work and ensure health workers have the resources needed,” he said.

THE DUP said it had taken the decision to collapse the Executive because of difficulties with the NI Protocol.

The Community Foundation has this week announced the allocation of £6.8m in funding through the Mental Health Support Fund, which was established by Minister Robin Swann last autumn to support a range of charitable and community organisations providing mental health services.

This is the second round of funding from the Mental Health Support Fund. In September 2021, 30 projects across Northern Ireland were awarded funding. This week a further 77 projects will receive funding to support works within mental health and well being, as part of this latest round of funding.

The groups who have been awarded the funding for Mental Health Support will provide services such as increasing counselling provision and support services, expanding peer support networks, and provision of trauma support programmes. The projects are aimed at a wide range of ages from children through to older people.

Welcoming the grant payments, the Minister said: “As a society, the past two years has presented all of us with very serious challenges and there is evidence of a longer term increased mental health need associated with the pandemic. The very worthwhile projects receiving this funding are delivering vital person-centred care and support at a time when help is desperately needed.

“A key element of responding to this emerging mental health need has been the development of a new Mental Health Strategy which I published last June. The Strategy promotes emotional wellbeing and positive mental health for everyone, supports recovery and seeks to reduce stigma and mental health inequalities.”

The Fund, which is being administered and managed by the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland, on behalf of the Department, aims to provide grant funding to organisations with charitable purposes that can deliver outcomes to improve the mental health and emotional wellbeing of the population.

Roísín Wood, Chief Executive of the Community Foundation, welcomed the allocation of this additional funding to the Mental Health Support Fund, saying: “We always knew, given the impact on mental health and wellbeing as a result of the pandemic, that there would be an exponential interest in this fund, and we were right. Demand for the fund has been very high, with 198 applications having been received, so we know some groups will be disappointed, and there remains a need for further support.

“Naturally, we are delighted that we are able to announce funding to 77 projects as a result of the additional allocation by the Minister. This will enable the Foundation to provide even more support for mental health services across a wide range of organisations. To the projects who have been successful, we know you will make a significant difference to the communities you work in.”

Fiona Umetsu, Artistic Director with Foyle Obon who have received over £39,000 funding welcomed the support, saying; “Everyone is absolutely delighted to receive this funding from the Community Foundation. It will enable us to roll out a programme of Taiko drumming classes for people whose mental health and wellbeing has been affected by Covid 19 and the experience of the past 2 years. Participants will learn taiko and then have the option to perform at our community Obon Festival.

It has been a difficult few years for everyone and pressure on mental health services is immense. People need opportunities to connect, to belong, to be creative and to have fun. Taiko is a powerful tool for bringing people together, a form of self-care helping with stress, anxiety and depression through movement, rhythms, connection and fun. We are excited for the year ahead and can’t wait to stand together at the drum as a team.”

Further information on grants can be found on the Community Foundation Northern Ireland website: www.communityfoundationni.org