A new £10m mental health support fund has been launched in Northern Ireland.

The fund, which is managed by the Community Foundation, will be open to community and voluntary sector organisations with charitable purposes offering services for people with mental ill-health.

It’s been launched by health minister Robin Swann from Covid-19 emergency money reflecting the person-centred approach in the new 10-Year Mental Health Strategy, which was published at the end of June.

Our member Cathy Green is part of our Older People Expert Reference Group. Her work with isolated and vulnerable older people with Clare Community Interest Company in Belfast switched from face-to-face to telephone at the outset of the pandemic.

Vital funding

Cathy said that lessons have been learnt during lockdown which open opportunities, but that require funding to be effective.

“It’s vital at this time as we move out of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions that we’re able to reach out to those people in need of support,” Cathy said.

“During the pandemic I saw an increase in the numbers of older men who contacted our service. We’d been aware for a long time we hadn’t been reaching men, but it seems that having the option of telephone contact made our service more relevant.

“Funding for community-based organisations to support people of all ages is vital as we move out of lockdown.

“Community-based counselling organisations are well-placed to deliver talking therapies, helping to rebuild people’s confidence and offer ongoing support.

“They can help to build new and lasting relationships as we move towards re-engaging with each other and society.”

Welcome announcement 

Jeremy Bacon, our Third Sector Lead, said: “This is a welcome announcement that will contribute to the capacity of community-based organisations to support the ten year mental health strategy.

“The strategy has recognised the vital role that third sector organisations play in supporting mental health across communities.

“This, and further funding is essential to increase choice and access to counselling for anyone who needs it.”

The Mental Health Support Fund will make a number of calls for applications over two years.

The first call is for applications for funding between £100,000 and £500,000 and closes on August 6, with applications for smaller grants of between £5,000 and £100,000 opening in September.

The foundation is holding an information session about the grant scheme on Thursday 8 July. Further details are available on the Community Foundation website.