Rapid review of Brent emotional wellbeing and mental health Hyper Local Forums

Tags: Report

28th October 2021


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Executive summary

Helpforce has supported Brent Health Matters (BHM) to deliver a project in Brent to address health inequalities with a focus on people’s emotional wellbeing and mental health. The project has established ‘Hyper Local Forums’ in the communities of Church End and Alperton, as these are two of the areas in Brent that have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19. The first Hyper Local Forums brought together groups of local people and local stakeholders to discuss the communities’ emotional and mental health priorities and develop action plans. These are part of the wider BHM health inequalities programme in Brent.

ICHP were asked to provide a rapid review of the Hyper Local Forums. This review focusses on how the process has worked to date and deriving learnings for other sites interested in setting up their own Hyper Local Forums.

Some of the key findings from this evaluation were:

  • There is a lot of potential in Hyper Local Forums as an approach to addressing health inequalities, but many benefits will only be seen in the longer term – the approach adopted in Alperton and Church end has started a dialogue in neighbourhoods with distrust of statutory services, mobilised volunteers and local people, with the aim to address mental health in a culturally appropriate way. However, more time will be needed to understand if the action plans now agreed will lead to meaningful changes in the community.
  • Overall, participants were satisfied with the Hyper Local Forums - there were some anticipated differences in the two communities. Satisfaction with the forums was widespread, especially in Alperton. In Church End the team reflected that the community has higher levels of distrust in statutory services. While participants of the Church End forum engaged with the meeting and plan to stay involved, organisers recognised that it may take more time and effort to embed the forum in the community, compared to Alperton.
  • The forums struck a good balance of attendees, which meant local people felt comfortable speaking out. One of the key successes of the initial forums was the rich discussion that came from breakout groups, where local people felt comfortable sharing their opinions. Organisers deliberately planned the forums so that attendees had a link to the local area.
  • This approach requires willingness to hand over power to local people – Hyper Local Forums in Brent are seeking to support emotional wellbeing and mental health. Some of the best ways to support may sit with statutory services, but others may best be addressed by local charities and community groups. Council and health providers will continue to be crucial stakeholders in this work, but decision-making on priorities should sit with local people. This shift in mindset will also be essential for the action plans that were agreed at the forums to generate impact: e.g. it might be helpful to agree if any stakeholders need to have sight of their implementation, how the plans will be shared with relevant statutory services, and how statutory services and communities will work together to deliver them (clearly outlining the responsibilities of both)
  • Balance contributions made at borough-level and hyper-local level– There is a genuine desire across Brent to work together and share information across services. BHM has been particularly good at making connections between people and organisations at the borough level, but forum organisers felt this could happen more at a hyper local level. While there are benefits of being part of a borough-wide programme (e.g. shared vision and resourcing), working at the hyper local level is ultimately about shifting the balance of power to the community and this is best achieved through local decision-making structures.
  • Sustaining the Hyper Local Forums will require capacity from different types of stakeholders – organisers should consider involving a neutral third-party organisation (to continue work started by Helpforce and others), freeing up local statutory service staff to attend, and coordinating between the local council, health providers and third sector organisations.
  • Hyper Local Forums in Brent provide a framework that can be applied to other communities in North West London (NWL). Each community’s priorities will be different, but the format and overall approach can be spread. In the final section of the report, we have derived some core principles and flexible principles for scaling and spreading to other areas.
  • Learnings from this engagement model can be spread beyond volunteering programme – e.g. the Population Health Management and Inequalities programmes may also benefit from using this model of community engagement.

For the full report please download the attached PDF.

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