Our report, “We were absolutely invisible: the impact of Covid-19 on the mental health of grassroots voluntary and community sector workers” shows that demand for mental health support from grassroots charities has soared in the last two years and that those charities’ own workers are on the brink of burnout. The pressure felt by these grassroots charities means there is a risk that a key part of the community mental health support system could collapse. We believe a co-ordinated strategy for voluntary and community sector (VCS) workers is needed urgently and is crucial to upholding this system.
Grassroots charities have stepped up over the past two and a half years, supporting people with mild to complex mental health issues, but they have no training and no resources to do this work and it has taking its toll on them. Our surveys of grassroots organisations revealed that, by February 2022, 82% of respondents said they were worried about staff burnout in the coming six months. This means that there will be fewer workers available to support members of their communities, and people with urgent mental health needs will be left without help or will turn to their over-stretched NHS and local authority.
We know that there is great potential for grassroots charities to play a vital role in providing mental health work alongside the NHS, but they cannot do this without support. Workers in those organisations need mental health awareness training, an understanding of the referral routes and in-house skills to better support their staff and recognise the signs of early burnout.
We believe there is a need for a co-ordinated strategy to support VCS workers, with the statutory sector and funders all playing their part:
The strategy should include:
- The provision of appropriate and accessible mental health services by the statutory sector and ensuring that grassroots VCS organisations are made aware of what is available and referral pathways.
- Leadership support for grassroots VCS organisations. This should include training to recognise burnout, trauma and mental-ill health/anxiety amongst front-line staff at VCS level, alongside training in and provision or clinical supervision/other support systems such as well-facilitated peer support networks.
- Mental health awareness, training and development amongst VCS workers. This should include raising awareness of mental ill-health, understanding how and when to refer (as well as pathways) and supporting the statutory sector with understanding some of the cultural sensitivities experienced.
- Funders of grassroots VCS organisations to consider capacity building for all grantholders to enable leaders and workers to receive the support, training and knowledge needed to safeguard their mental health and help the communities they serve.
We are inviting other funders to come together to talk about a possible collaboration to consider our collective responsibility to this issue. Share our page on the Funders Collaborate Hub with your funders. If you are funder, contact Lisa Doyle, Director of Engagement and Influencing at People's Health Trust, for more information or to register your interest in discussing this further.