With Dave Bagley, CEO of Urban Outreach


Last week I was invited by the Big Lottery Fund to see how their funding is being put to use to help my constituents.

I had the pleasure of visiting Urban Outreach, who deliver a wide range of services including the provision of emergency food parcels, support for sex workers, help for homeless people and work with runaway children.

The focus of the visit was to talk about the Support First scheme, which helps people with mental health issues and is backed by the Big Lottery Fund.

Often people struggling with mental health can find themselves facing many complex challenges. Financial difficulties, housing troubles, drug or alcohol problems, family issues, amongst other things, can all develop into barriers which need to be addressed alongside someone’s mental health.

Unfortunately public services tend to look at one issue in isolation. Support First takes a collaborative approach in the hope of addressing all of the different and conflicting pressures that people face.

When local emergency services, such as A&E or the police, encounter people who repeatedly find themselves in trouble they refer them on to Support First. Through the scheme individuals receive intensive one to one support from Urban Outreach and another charity called BAND (Building A New Direction), which specialises in mental health.

I had the pleasure of meeting two of the service users who strongly believe that they would likely have committed suicide without the intervention and support they received. They have been able to get back on their feet, give up alcohol, repair broken family relationship and retrain for new careers.

I’m very impressed by this collaborative approach and believe that it has real value. Public services need to learn how to co-operate in this way and really support people as individuals, looking at the whole picture rather than just one aspect.

Money for services may well be tight for years to come and that means we have to re-think old ways of working and be much smarter in our approach. Charities, the public sector, politicians, all of us need to work together to find new collaborative approaches to really improve lives.

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