Note: This blog post was originally written in 2012. Since then some of our projects have changed and our charity has gotten even bigger! For details of our current project please visit our Homepage.
As a charity (from 2004, a charitable company limited by guarantee) we have been dependent on voluntary support for funding since our inception. Taunton and District Mind was established in 1982: as a founder member, I know just how much volunteers and community effort have helped us.
From our beginnings on a stall in Taunton Market in the late 70’s, we aimed to raise awareness, highlight needs and campaign for better services for people suffering mental ill-health. Mental Health problems affect one in four people! “Better Services for the Mentally Ill” a Government White Paper, idealistically set out a structure in 1975 which called for an integrated approach to community care: for the NHS, Social Services and Voluntary services to work together locally but because of the recession and pessimism about services, development was patchy.
However, with support, The Mind Nearly New Shop in Roman Road was opened and acted as a shop window (’81-84). It helped us to establish the Association and gain funding through grants and voluntary support to set up projects to meet identified need.
Back in 1982 the demand was to provide a service for older people with dementia and support for their carers. Our first project as Taunton & District Mind was the ‘Carefree Day Centre’ ( which became two care centres, such was the demand at the time, one day at Tauntfield Close and one at Kilkenny). However, as Social Services and the burgeoning private care homes began to provide day services for people with dementia, we re-focussed.
Another part of Taunton Mind’s early work, was the ‘Hands Drop-in Centre set up in 1988, at Silver St Baptist Church rooms and also at North St. Each place offered weekly space. It was a self-help group, for people experiencing anxiety and depression.
In 1992, having raised sufficient funds, Taunton Mind established an office at the North St Congregational Church rooms and also a day service “Peace of Mind” with funding from what is now Somerset Partnership NHS Mental Health Foundation Trust and from Social Services. Its overarching aim was to provide day support for people with mental health difficulties and especially people, former residents of Tone Vale Hospital who, following its closure, were being resettled in the Taunton area.
It was seen as being a vital link in the network of community support, enabling the professionals to focus on treatment and rehabilitation. People needing longer-term support required a non-threatening, encouraging environment where they could gradually progress, gaining in self-esteem and confidence; feel less isolated, achieving a greater degree of independence and be more able to join in community activities. Those who need Mind’s services are encouraged to take part in its organisation. As funding has increased, services have widened: rather than a day service in one place, smaller projects have developed away from the base, (which is now at The Market House, Canal Road.)
Other projects have been set-up but often the funding was for three years and it was not possible to achieve funding continuity e.g. The Therapy Project which for 18months offered low-cost counselling, funded from our reserves. Work Skills and Opportunities was another community-based project offering a shop-window’ which encouraged people to drop-in to discuss needs. Sadly this funding was cut short, likewise MindER which was set up specifically to help children and young people and was very much valued by local schools.
Changes are coming again, perforce because of funding issues but also as said, needs change and more specific treatment is now available, so the aim of recovery becomes a possibility though obviously is very different for each person.
The Millennium saw Mindline established to provide telephone support for four evenings a week and now funded for two years by Somerset Partnership and Social Services. Ideally this should be 24/7 – this is a goal! And the partnership being developed with North Devon Mental Health Helpline (WAND) should cover 7 evenings a week.
People in mental distress can often feel isolated and living in small communities in rural areas such as West Somerset can increase that sense of isolation. The West Somerset Inclusion Project funded by the Lottery and set up in 2002 aims to address this through its office in Park Street, Minehead and also its outreach services.
Advocacy (funded via Comic Relief for three years) is available to anyone living in Taunton Deane or West Somerset who has a mental health issue or who is experiencing emotional distress who would like the support of an advocate. Having nearly completed the three years it has proved to be much needed so we’re striving to gain more funding to extend this service across Somerset.
The SUCH project which offers complementary therapy to residents in the mental health services and mainly funded now by Somerset Partnership, is part of MindTWS.
The way forward is to work in partnership with other organisations, especially with other local Minds as we’ve been doing through ‘Right Steps’ part of the’ Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies’(IAPT) programme – with South Somerset Mind and Mind in Sedgemoor and also with Mind associations across the South West and through Ecotherapy funding and in partnership with others, Somerset Wildlife and the Langley House Trust, setting up projects which involve the physical environment to improve health and well-being.
Our aim is to gain sustainable funding and support, helped further by working in partnership with like-minded groups, so that we can retain our committed and excellent staff (now 6 full-time and 20 part-time). But without our volunteers which includes our Board of Trustees and members, and people in the community.
We’d not have reached nearly 30 years of service provision.
Over the years we’ve been supported by local services and especially the local mental health and social services but perhaps most importantly, by committed people giving their time – we were all voluntary in the beginning! Members of local voluntary groups helped us to start: several members of Pawlett WI gave of their time in the Nearly New shop; Taunton Rotary provided us with a taxi service to bring elderly people to the day centres to give their carers a day’s respite; Bridgwater Soroptimists helped support local mental health services. We were members of the Big Society then and now!