[Survey] COVID-19 and Voluntary Sector Organisations: Impact and Response

COVID-19 is having a major impact on the entire Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) Sector.To assess its effect on the sector, researchers have secured funding from Economic and Social Research Council to conduct an investigation into the way that COVID-19 is impacting the sector and how organisations are responding.

As part of the project, researchers will be conducting a monthly barometer which will run for 15 months, from mid-September 2020 to November 2021. This barometer is unique as the results will be publicly updated monthly.

Organisations can use the results to compare themselves against those of similar type and size. The barometer will have a dashboard, that allows organisations to see how their experiences compare to other organisations. This will help organisations better understand how they are doing and learn lessons from others.

Every month, organisations completing the survey will be entered into a prize draw to win £200. At the end of the project all participating organisations will be entered into a prize draw to win £2,000.

To find out more about this project, please contact the project team at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or project lead Daniel King (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). To participate in the survey please visit COVID-19 and VCSE Organisations' Responses

Report - Our place: Local authorities and the public’s mental health

This new report launched this month by the Centre for Mental Health examines initiatives of local councils that are rising to the challenge of promoting good mental health and preventing poor mental health in their communities.  Using nine case studies, the report presents learning from these areas, prior to the pandemic and in the midst of challenges brought by COVID-19, with an overview of the evidence for prevention and the national policy context.

Across these case studies the authors found 4 key principles which enabled the councils to respond to the Mental Health needs of their communities:

1.  Public mental health as everybody’s business - i.e. mental health as the responsibility of every part of the council and wider community.

2. Collaboration: councils working with other parts of the system, such as the NHS, and closely involving community groups.

3. Place-based approaches: using the idea of ‘place’ to get residents and organisations to engage with the broader health and wellbeing agenda.

4. Taking a holistic approach: using a wide range of approaches and strategies to tackling the determinants of mental health.

Local authorities are uniquely placed to connect all parts of the system, and to work towards fewer health inequalities and better mental health for all. They will need proper funding to fulfil this potential.


NIHR study: The role of the voluntary sector in mental health crisis

This new study funded by the NIHR (National Institute for Health Research explored in detail the value of the voluntary sector in responding flexibly and with compassion and kindness to people experiencing a mental health crisis.

Published in July 2020, it highlights how the potential contribution of the voluntary sector is broader than simply its unique approach, with different types of voluntary sector organisations having a key role to play in prevention and in recovery. There are also skills, expertise and networks that are not readily available in the public sector.

However, the study found that the understanding of the voluntary sector by public sector services was often limited and the authors suggest that there should be an improved understanding of the contribution alongside development of a system of crisis support that better responds to the wide range of needs of people experiencing mental health crisis, their families and carers.

Of crucial importance is a crisis system that enables people to address factors that contributed to the crisis, rather than narrowly framing a mental health crisis in terms of risk or mental illness.  Weaknesses across the sector were identified, including varied availability/access and inequalities were also found to be evident. 

Full access:https://www.journalslibrary.nihr.ac.uk/hsdr/hsdr08290#/abstract

Coronavirus information

MHNE have assembled a selection of relevent resources at the time of writing, including information, guidance and practical advice around coronavirus.  This information is updated but some links or information may have changed.  Please contact us via our contact form or on social medial if you have comments or suggestions.

Check our social media pages for ongoing updates - Twitter, Facebook.

CNTW Trust - Coronavirus Mental Health Service User Experience Survey

* Getting Coronavirus support as an extremely vulnerable person *

Please register if you have a medical condition that makes you extremely vulnerable to coronavirus or you will need help getting deliveries of essential supplies like food - this includes mental health.

Register yourself, or on behalf of someone else:

COVID-19: Coronavirus latest information from the UK Government and NHS

General information from the NHS about preventing the spread and contraction of the virus, including answer to commonly asked questions:


If you start to experience symptoms and believe you could have Coronavirus:
Do not visit a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital as you could pass the infection to others. Do contact your GP, visit http://NHS.UK/coronavirus or call NHS 111 to speak to someone for advice on what to do next.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): getting tested

You can help to protect yourself and others from Coronavirus with this routine:

  • Wash your hands with soap more often than usual for at least 20 seconds when you arrive home at or work, and around mealtimes - take off shoes and outdoor clothes as soon as you get in.
  • Use hand sanitiser if you're using public transport, out shopping for esentials etc.
  • Observe physical distancing of at least 2m (6ft) and social distancing to stop wider spread.
  • Wear a mask or face covering on public transport and indoor spaces where there is greater risk of transmission.

COVID-19: guidance on social distancing and for vulnerable people

Information for the public from Government:

Collection of government guidance for various sectors:

Mental Health specific information

MH Support for NHS staff
Helpline and text service for NHS staff providing support, from coaching and bereavement care to mental health and welfare support.  Helpline 0300 131 7000    https://people.nhs.uk/helpFor the 24/7 text helpline simply text FRONTLINE to 85258

North East and North Cumbria Suicide Prevention Network

Northern Mental Health Support (put together by Newcastle University with Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW))

Coronavirus and your wellbeing (from Mind)

Looking after your mental health during the Coronavirus outbreak

Public Health England - advice on mental health & wellbeing, including for people with specific mental health problems & on getting help in a crisis

FACE COVID - How to respond effectively to the Corona crisis - by Russ Harris, author of The Happiness Trap
Practical steps based on acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)

Every Mind Matters has now released expert advice and top tips on how to look after your mental wellbeing

Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust - information on NHS mental health services from CNTW

Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Trust- for information on NHS mental health services from TEWV

Check NSUN on twitter for the latest updates on how changes to services and lockdown in the UK will impact mental health service users.

Financial, Housing and Money Related Information

Citizen's Advice what it means for you

National Debtline Coronavirus Information and Fact Sheet

Moneysaving Expert Help and Rights

Covid-19: managing your mental and financial wellbeing

Shelter: Find out how coronavirus has affected housing legislation, benefits and your rights.

Coronavirus and benefits (useful summary of information from Newcastle City Council)

From the DWP - Coronavirus support for employers, benefit claimants and businesses

Please visit this DWP link for detailed and up to date changes - they are quite wide ranging:

Foodbanks or Meal services

Trussel Trust - Find a Foodbank:   https://www.trusselltrust.org/get-help/find-a-foodbank/

Information Now - Newcastle based information about food

Food for vulnerable people - Commercial food access options.
Updated summary from DEFRA of supermarket and other food box scheme options.

Coronavirus - advice for VCSE organisations and fundraisers

VONNE have produced an excellent collection of advice and links for the community and voluntary sector, and to support a range of vulnerable groups and health conditions.

Government Guidance for the safe use of multi-purpose community facilities

VONNE has also opened up its funding pages to everyone. Funding Directory contains the details of more than 100 charitable trusts and foundations that are actively funding charities and community groups in the North East region.

Connected Voice - Advice and updates for the sector

Connected Voice have set up a funding page listing opportunities that are geared up to tackling the Covid-19 pandemic and supporting charities and community groups at this very difficult time. It's updated on a regular basis:

Durham Community Action - has produced guides for volunteers and volunteer providing organisations:
Covid-19 Advice for Volunteers
Covid-19 Good Practice Guide for Volunteer Involving Organisations

Grants Online - COVID 19 Latest Funding Updates (open access)

NCVO have also provided a useful resource.

NSUN is maintaining a national list of COVID-19 related funding sources here:

COVID-19: guidance for social or community care and residential settings

This guidance will assist social, community and residential care employers in providing advice to their staff on the novel coronavirus, COVID-19:


Guidance for hostel or day centre providers of services for people experiencing rough sleeping


Coronavirus advice and planning for people experiencing homelessness (Groundswell)


COVID-19 Advice for Asylum Seekers and Refugees

Services for asylum seekers and refugees updated due to Corona Virus (Covid-19).

North East Councils - Service Disruputions and Local Advice (eg. schools, social care)

Newcastle City Council

Durham County Council

Gateshead Council

South Tyneside Council

Sunderland Council

Northumberland County Council


COVID-19 Volunteering

NHS Volunteer Responders

This programme enables volunteers to provide care or to help a vulnerable person, which is permitted under the new rules announced by the Government on 23rd March 2020.  Signup here:


Newcastle City Council is seeking Volunteers

Citylife Line has been set up by Newcastle City Council for people wanting to volunteer their time while also providing a service for people to register their need for assistance.

North Tyneside - VODA Volunteers

Good Neighbours COVID-19 Volunteer Response - offer or receive help with shopping etc.

Mutual Aid UK Groups - National Community Support Network

A national page to coordinate the community organising to support the most vulnerable and isolated during the Covid-19 outbreak.  Check the page for groups in your area, there are already many across the North East.

People Together

Coronavirus and Human Rights (from NSUN)


Study: Mental Health Issues linked to Universal Credit

This month saw a Lancet publication of a research study of the Mental Health issues that have been linked to the introduction of Universal Credit.

Universal  Credit, as you probably know is the controversial welfare  benefit  reform  which began  to  replace  six  existing  benefit  schemes back in 2013,  starting  with  income-based  Job  Seekers  Allowance.

The study followed over 50,000 people for a ten year period, and findings  suggest  that  the  introduction  of  Universal  Credit  led  to  a clinically significant increase  in  psychological  distress, a measure of mental health difficulties, among those affected by the policy.

Their recommendation is that future changes to government welfare systems should be evaluated not only on a fiscal basis but on their potential to affect health and wellbeing.

Full study is available here: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpub/article/PIIS2468-2667(20)30026-8/fulltext(20)30026-8/fulltext

MHNE Comment: Doctors tell parents to go private for children’s care

The Guardian reports that four in ten GPs are advising parents with children with mental health problems to go private because NHS services are overwhelmed. [Link to article]

In a recent survey, 43% of UK family doctors said that they had told parents whose children were struggling with anxiety, depression, self-harm or eating disorders  to seek treatment privately if they could afford it because NHS care is rationed and may involve 18-month delays.

Many GPs who took part in the research by charity stem4, criticised child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).

Some had described the care provided as “dire”, “extremely lacking”, “non-existent” and “totally, horrifically, grossly inadequate”; one GP said “seeing a psychiatrist is more difficult than seeing the Pope”
GPs’ advice to go private has prompted concern that it results in a two-tier system in which children from poorer families are denied any care and leaves parents who can pay the fees involved confused as to which private mental health professional is best placed to help.

NHS England said: “Actually, record numbers of children and young people are being treated for mental health conditions, waiting times are improving significantly and the NHS is ahead of its target to treat 70,000 more children every year by 2021.

So, who do you believe?

Bipolar and Parenthood - Research Study

Aigli Raouna, a doctoral researcher at the University of Edinburgh is carrying out research which aims to understand how women with bipolar disorder and their partners experience parenthood.

  •     Would you like to share your parenthood journey?
  •     Are you over 18 years old and live in the UK?
  •     Are you either a mother diagnosed with bipolar disorder before becoming a mother?
  •     Or the partner of a woman diagnosed with bipolar disorder before becoming a mother?
  •     And is your first child under 5 years old?

This research will involve:

  •     A brief questionnaire and a one-to-one interview (face to face or via Skype)
  •     A £10 Amazon voucher as a thank you

A youtube video about the study can be found here:
If you or your partner would like to find out more details or you are interested to take part, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call +44 (0)754 836 7347.
This study has ethical approval. The participant information sheet can be downloaded here.

Prevention and mental health: free public health resource

Prevention and mental health:  Understanding the evidence so that we can address the greatest health challenge of our times by Dr. Antonis Kousoulis.

The Mental Health Foundation has published this excellent free resource for policymakers, health professionals, mental health advocates and their families and friends - visit this page to find out more and download this useful report.


Opinion: It is time to hardwire mental health and mental wellbeing into all public policy - Kevan Jones MP

It is time to hardwire mental health and mental wellbeing into all public policy - both at a national and local level - Kevan Jones, MP for North Durham

The Government must consider a more joined-up approach to tackle mental illness.

Much progress has been made in recent years to address the stigma concerning mental health and the issue is now clearly on the political agenda. Parliament now regularly debates the issue, most recently discussing women’s mental health. The debate usually returns to the subject of the NHS budgets and the funding of mental health or lack of it. This concentration on NHS funding though important misses a fundamental point  which is adding  to our country’s mental health crisis and pressure on the NHS. That is the failure of policy makers to hardwire mental health into wider public policy.

Policy decision made across Government without thinking about their impact on the nations mental health are not only affecting individual’s mental health but leading to increased costs to the taxpayer and burdens on the NHS. Disproportionate cuts in local government funding have led to many local authorities cutting funding to community and voluntary organisation. Many of these organisations play I vital part not only supporting people in the community with mental health conditions but prevent them arising. Local lunch clubs for example in many communities are important for the elderly preventing them becoming socially isolated. They may not be considered part of our mental health services, but I would argue they play a key part of the prevention agenda.

Another example of where poor policy decisions are increasing the mental health burden is in the area of welfare reforms. The work capability test designed to judge individual’s ability to work takes little or no consideration of those living with mental health conditions. It is framed around a number of descriptors which assess individual’s physical health, resulting in those with mental conditions usually failing the tests and being deemed fit for work. From my experience of constituency cases this leads to huge anxiety for individuals and in some cases leads to demands on the NHS as their managed mental health condition deteriorates. In one individual case I know of, a lady was sectioned after failing her work capability test only to have her benefit reinstate on appeal. This is a poor outcome for the individual and the taxpayer. Sounding tough on welfare may seem strong but the result is a system that is making the situation worse and leading to extra demands on the health service because of poor policy making.

So, what is needed? We need to agree mental health benchmarks by which a policy or spending decision are judged before they are implemented. The aim must be to ensure that policies implemented in one area of government does not increase the demands on mental health services by making an individual’s mental health worse. For example, a policy on reform of the welfare system which simply first asked the question how it will affect individuals mental health would l am convinced avoid the faults of the present system. By addressing the issue of mental health at this early stage of policy development would not only result in better policy but better outcomes for individuals and would save money in the long term.

Kevan was speaking in a House of Commons Debate for Women’s Mental Health  (October 3rd 2019).
He can be reached directly via his website: https://www.kevanjonesmp.org.uk/

Mental Health and the Journey to Parenthood—REPORT

A new report from Healthwatch England exploring the experiences of new mothers shows that some women are not receiving the mental health support they should expect. The report also highlights that triggers like severe sickness in pregnancy, fear of speaking up, and a lack of information about where to turn for help, can all contribute to mental ill-health.

When asked how easy it was to get support for their mental health, nearly half of women said they found the process 'difficult' or 'very difficult' and many feel scared about how people will respond if they speak up. Healthwatch England is therefore calling on health professionals to create more opportunities for new parents to talk about their mental health and to check on the wellbeing of women both during and after pregnancy.
Full report and findings here: