Social enterprise lands £75,000 grant to help address mental ill-health

Martin Hogg

A social enterprise has received a £75,000 grant from the new Social Enterprise Support Fund to help it address mental ill-health amplified by the fall-out of COVID-19.

Official figures show depression in British adults has doubled during the coronavirus crisis. The data has prompted calls for an urgent national plan to avert a looming mental health crisis.

Birmingham-based Citizen Coaching has 60 counsellors and in a usual year delivers 20,000 face-to-face counselling sessions.

CEO of Citizen Coaching, Martin Hogg, said: “We’re anticipating a surge in referrals, but also more complex issues as mental health issues are amplified. If someone had anxiety before COVID-19, they may have managed with coping techniques. Those with anxiety see the world as a dangerous or difficult place, and the global pandemic has just confirmed what they always thought was true, so people with anxiety issues are particularly affected by this and may need more intense support.”

With 75% of its clients aged 14-24, referred by schools, GPs and youth workers, there are concerns young people will now urgently seek help after struggling in lockdown and returning to education or an increasingly unstable job market.

Social isolation, health worries, and exam and future career anxiety adds up to a perfect storm for young people.

Hogg said: “Because of the age group we work with anxiety is the main condition we’ve seen around how the coronavirus crisis will affect their long-term future. The closure of colleges and universities plus the cancellation of exams has left young people feeling lost.”

The social enterprise has also dealt with wider and far reaching issues.

Hogg added: “People came to us in crisis, fearful of accessing hospital services and citing issues in dealing with loss and bereavement, domestic abuse, modern slavery, partnership issues, isolation, homelessness, loss of confidence and increase in anxiety. People with autism that Citizen Coaching were already working with, who were leading a life outside of the home, immediately retreated.”

During lockdown, Citizen Coaching was able to move 80% of its existing clients online thanks to previous support from social investor, the Key Fund, who gave a grant and loan mix in 2018 to help develop its online services. The enterprise offered free anger management courses online to help those struggling in confined homes during lockdown.

Revenue dried up for the enterprise as referrals from the NHS, schools and youth workers stopped, despite an increase in self-referrals, some with life-threatening health concerns compounded by COVID-19.

Key Fund has now awarded Citizen Coaching £75,000 grant from the Social Enterprise Support Fund. The Social Enterprise Support Fund was established in partnership by The National Lottery Community Fund and five social enterprise support agencies: The Key Fund, Big Issue Invest, Community Land & Finance CIC (also known as Resonance), the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) and UnLtd with support from CAF Venturesome, the Young Foundation and Ashoka.

Thanks to National Lottery players, £18.7 million of National Lottery funding has been committed to the fund to be used to provide grants to social enterprise organisations that are best placed to support local, vulnerable communities in response to the COVID-19 crisis. This National Lottery funding is part of The National Lottery Community Fund’s wider COVID-19 emergency response for communities.

Matt Smith, CEO of Key Fund, said: “The Social Enterprise Support Fund is aimed at social enterprises supporting people at high health risk from COVID-19, and those supporting people facing increased social and economic challenges as a result of COVID-19. The UK’s 100,000 social enterprises have been at the heart of community survival and recovery during this crisis, and Citizen Coaching is a prime example.”

Citizen Coaching aims to offer a wide range of therapies to meet growing complex needs and demand, with no waiting list.

The grant will directly and immediately support 400 people in greatest need and unable to find support elsewhere. Counsellors will address those with complex or urgent need within the most vulnerable groups – particularly those often marginalised, overlooked or disproportionally affected by COVID-19.