Oxfordshire: voluntary and community sector response to transition

Response are the largest third sector provider of mental health and wellbeing services tailored to young people in Oxfordshire. In partnership with six voluntary and community sector providers, Response came together to develop the Mental Wealth Academy.

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The Mental Wealth Academy bridges the gap between child and adult mental health provisions, providing modern approaches to cognitive behavioural and solution focused therapies.

The challenge

Response, the third sector lead for the Oxfordshire CAMHs Community In-Reach contract, recognised the challenges experienced by young people when they approached 18, due to the lack of services available during this transition point. The gaps in service provision during this critical transition to adulthood negative impacted on young people’s emotional wellbeing and mental health, resulting in more young people reaching crisis point.

The solution

Response used their skills, expertise, and relationships that they had built as the third sector lead for the Oxfordshire CAMHs contract to submit a bid to the Department for Health and Social Care’s (DHSCs) Health and Wellbeing Fund in 2019. This provided sufficient funding to get the project off the ground to tackle the limited service availability for young people when they reach 18.

The project started in April 2020, just as the country was moving into lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, over 370 young people have received one to one support.

The Mental Wealth Academy (MWA) model includes partners; Ark T, Oxfordshire MIND, Oxfordshire Youth, SOFEA and BYHP and the work is characterised by an aspirational, co-productive approach with the aim of reducing health inequalities, increasing resilience and improving life chances. The project expands the third sector’s reach and impact through a proactive and preventative programme consisting of training, peer mentorship and direct intervention.

Young people, parents/carers and professionals can refer and can receive a range of support. This includes 1:1 therapy either online or in person. The MWA also provides ‘Introduction to Children & Young People’s Mental Health’ workshops for parents & guardians online, to help them support their young people with their mental health. There is also training available for young people to become Mental Health Ambassadors; to deliver mental health training workshops (to peers, aged 11-17) in schools/youth group and community settings.

“The impact of the Mental Wealth Academy sessions has led to young people feeling more independent, hopeful, motivated and in control of their life’s’.” – Emma Phillips Transition Wellbeing Practitioner - BHYP

The impact

The project has been running for about 18 months so long term evaluation has not yet taken place, however initial feedback from service users and families shows the initial success of the work.

Individual feedback from young people and parents and carers has been overwhelmingly positive. With over 60 per cent  of young people reporting that they feel optimistic about the future after they have received support, over 70 per cent  report that they are now able to deal with problems well and over 50 per cent reporting that they are now able to feel closer to other people. 

The project has also provided the opportunity for more third sector partners to be upskilled in emotional wellbeing and mental health and be able to work with young people experience mental health needs. This is in addition to building and consolidating relationships across the system, which ensures a better service response to young people.

The project has also provided more support to minority groups. There is a higher proportion of LGBTQ+ young people seen by the service and work is being done to support more young people from BAME backgrounds.

How is the new approach being sustained?

The work is funded by the DHSCs Health and Wellbeing Fund which proves full funding for year one, 50 per cent for year two, and 10 per cent for year three. Response are looking to gain long term funding, either through work with the local commissioners or expanding the model to other localities. The CCG and Council were part of the original bid and work closely with Response to understand the impact of the project, the difference it is making to young people in Oxfordshire and the gaps in service provision that are now being plugged.

As the project was set up as the country went into lock-down, Response had to accelerate their move to digital support. This has enabled them to expand their reach to more young people whilst staying within the original budget envelope and ensure that waiting times continue to stay down.

The Mental Wealth Academy is about bridging the gap between Child and Adult Mental Health services for young people and providing them with support, direction and a safe space to work on developing positive coping strategies"

– Bethany Francis, CYP Community Manager

Lessons learned

This way of working requires strong relationships and a coordinated partnership. John, the Chief Executive of Response, attends regular meetings with other senior system leaders in Oxfordshire. It has taken time to build the strategic relationships. Having strong relationships and trust within the system enables partners to move through any cultural differences between organisations.

“The ability we have as a project to offer young people 12 safe, non-judgemental sessions which are tailored specifically to their wellbeing needs is fantastic. The benefit of working as a partnership is that the young people who engage with us are not only able to access wellbeing support, but also enrich their lives through transitions to employment, volunteering and support for the wider family.” Nicola Smith – Transition Wellbeing Practitioner, SOFEA


Bethany Francis (CYP Community Manager, Response)

[email protected]