People using the drop-in included: people experiencing social isolation and loneliness; people with learning difficulties or physical disabilities; people with mental health challenges; ex-offenders; people at risk of offending or substance misuse; homeless people.
Drop-in facility and support groups for the local community.
- Improved social links and ties;
- Individual and collective control (community power);
- Increased confidence, knowledge, skills and assets;
- Improved individual wellbeing.
What has the project achieved?
Project leads, volunteers, participants and partners agreed that the project was a success. The funding from People’s Health Trust allowed this new project to diversify provision at an existing drop-in centre (the Zone), strengthening a community hub by helping local people to design and deliver activities.
Individual and collective control (community power)
- Peer support;
- A sense of ownership;
- Collective control;
- Autonomy and leadership.
Peer support, through support groups, was key to the project, allowing participants to develop leadership. Over time, some groups became more autonomous. Members generated ideas for support groups and led their own groups, with support workers providing advice and guidance if needed.
Drop-in staff encouraged support group members and regular volunteers to gradually take on more responsibility, ensuring that group actions were truly participant led.
Examples of support groups:
- ‘Warriors’ was a peer support and mentoring group for people with learning difficulties and their families. A parent set up the group to share experiences with other parents supporting their children with complex medical needs, which can be a very isolating experience.
- A previously vulnerable participant set up a support group for his veteran peers and developed a partnership with a local Further Education college, with the project’s support. He received management skills training from People's Health Trust, which he used to successfully manage the initiative.
“I call them the Zone family, because everyone has a different role. They have so many ideas, because they know what’s best for the Zone, they know what is needed in the community.”
Improved social links and ties
- Reducing social isolation;
- Increasing social connectedness;
- Shared interest groups;
- Collective support networks.
The flexibility of the drop-in approach allowed people to gradually develop their social connections by attending when they can, recognising that vulnerable people often live with challenging conditions or in chaotic situations.
Members and member volunteers felt more connected with their community over time, some having attended the drop-ins for 18 months, forming new friendships, and extending their social networks. This was particularly valued by those who previously felt isolated, lonely or displaced.
The support groups promoted a sense of belonging and camaraderie. Connections often began over sharing food or a hot drink at the drop-in café. Over time, people recognised and developed their shared interests. The group developed collective support networks, supporting each other and the community.
Members were able to develop their communication skills through meaningful activity such as cooking or art. This approach supported individuals with learning difficulties particularly well.
“A lot of the people that come here are quite shy and isolated, don’t have a big social circle, so by coming here they are gaining friendship and interaction.”
Partner – Police Community Support Officer
Increased confidence, knowledge, skills and assets
- Increased self-esteem and confidence;
- Skills development (practical and organisational);
- Skill sharing;
- Improved employability.
Through the project, members were able to rebuild their confidence and the belief that they have something worth sharing with others.
The project allowed vulnerable people to volunteer in a safe and supportive environment, building their communication skills, ability to trust others and self-esteem through practical task-oriented volunteering opportunities.
Other members grew their skills and confidence by volunteering to help design and deliver activities for their peers. This was particularly helpful for people with learning difficulties or physical disabilities.
Some volunteers developed practical or organisational skills, for example through working in the in-house coffee shop, and used this to move onto training courses or into employment.
- Project leads noted an increase in confidence and self-esteem among vulnerable young people who had been attending a new therapeutic art group for just 4 to 5 weeks.
- One participant joined Together We Can following a period of ill health that meant she had to reduce her working hours. She wanted to try something new and was able to learn new skills at the project. Over time she developed the confidence to pass these skills to others, going on to run a craft session at a local care home.
“We provide a lot of volunteer placements. We mentor volunteers in lots of different roles, to hopefully enable them to go on to do training with us, other training programmers, and build up their CVs, to get into work.”
Improved individual wellbeing
- Enhanced personal wellbeing;
- A sense of purpose;
- Improved mental health;
- Diversity, inclusion and acceptance.
"It's built my confidence personally and improved my mental health dramatically. Becoming homeless it degraded really quickly and I had to do something. It's helped me build up physically and mentally. I've never been in a community that's quite like this one. It is a level playing field."
Project staff / former participant and volunteer
Lessons for other projects
- Consultations: The original project design included a steering group of members, but this was found
impractical to organise. Other consultation mechanisms arose organically, suggesting that tangible
task-orientated consultations may work best for projects with a high turnover of participants.
- Representation: The People’s Health Trust funding provided drop-in staff to help members progress
to volunteering roles. This enabled the charity to develop a more representative volunteering base.
About the evaluation
The project was funded, through Health Lottery Wales, as part of People’s Health Trust’s Active Communities programme.
The project was evaluated by Ecorys as part of the independent evaluation of the 2018–2019 Active Communities programme. The evaluation draws on interviews with project leads, partners, participant volunteers, participants and parents, along with focus groups with participant volunteers, across two visits. These took place in spring and summer 2019.