Local communities benefit from funding and expert mentoring


Despite the challenges thrown up by the COVID-19 pandemic, over 30 community and voluntary organisations this year benefitted from expert mentoring and support from organisations that have a track record of demonstrating excellent community development practice and a solid commitment to tackling health inequalities.

The Public Health Agency (PHA) commissioned the Community Development and Health Network (CDHN) to develop and deliver the Elevate support programme for the community, voluntary and public sectors. Elevate provides opportunities for developing skills, knowledge and an awareness of how community development expertise can be used as a means of tackling health inequalities. The funding for Elevate is provided by the PHA through the Transformation work stream.

As part of this year’s capacity building programme, 34 organisations received training, mentoring and a small PHA-funded grant of up to £5,000, to implement a community-based project, following identification of local needs and solutions. Elevate provides a unique opportunity for community organisations to put their collective learning on health inequalities into practice in a supportive and encouraging environment. Group mentoring allows local organisations to make connections, build networks, share information and ideas and support each other in their work.

Diane McIntyre, Health Improvement Senior Manager with the PHA, said: “An innovative approach has been adopted in the development and delivery of this programme, providing opportunities for the development of skills, knowledge and expertise in community development as a way to tackle health inequalities.

“Maximising use of latest technologies has enabled full delivery of the programme as initially outlined, despite significant challenges presented by COVID-19.

“We would like to thank the following mentoring organisations – Mid and East Antrim Agewell Partnership, Bolster Community, County Down Rural Community Network, Women’s Tec and ARC Healthy Living Centre, for providing their invaluable support and expertise.”

Nicola Clarke, Programme Manager with CDHN, said Elevate participants had significantly benefitted as a result of taking part.

“Elevate is unique. Participants benefit from a multi-faceted and complementary capacity-building programme, including bespoke, high-quality training, mentoring and grant support, networking opportunities and access to a range of information, tools and resources on health inequalities and community development.

“Participants have been able to increase their knowledge, gain confidence in applying learning to practice, establish networks to exchange ideas and increase their impact within their local communities.

“My sincere thanks to all of the participants and the Elevate team, in particular our mentor and mentee organisations, for their positive and innovative approach. It is this approach that made the community project implementation such a success, despite significant challenges faced by COVID-19.

“Many thanks also to the PHA for the continued support and funding that has enabled the Elevate programme to continually develop and have real impact in addressing health inequalities”.

One of the organisations benefitting from Elevate was Charis Cancer Care who developed and delivered 164 health and wellbeing sessions for those affected by cancer and their families.

Imelda McGucken, Director with Charis Cancer Care, said: “We exist to support people who are affected by cancer, their families, and supporters at every stage of their journey, and any family member affected by bereavement.

“Unfortunately due to the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing regulations, the cancer centre had to close for face-to-face treatments. We agreed amendments to our initial project plan with the Elevate team to enable us to deliver the online befriending, relaxation and mindfulness sessions, which complemented other online services such as counselling, scar therapy advice and support and hand reflexology, already provided by Charis.

“The critical support which we have been able to provide through Elevate funding has been invaluable to our service users during this very challenging time. The participants have benefitted greatly from this health and well-being project and have informed the therapists how the sessions have improved their sleep and helped reduce their stress and anxiety.

Delivering these health and well-being services online has helped to reduce the social isolation and inequality as a result of their cancer diagnosis and having to shield due to COVID-19”.

To find out more about the Elevate programme and to keep an eye on announcements regarding the next round of the mentoring and grants programme, please visit https://elevateni.org