Compassionate Communities: Evaluating a local health funding programme

We have been working with Imperial Health Charity to evaluate the impact and learn lessons from an innovative new £350,000 health and wellbeing funding initiative.

Transforming health and wellbeing

In the first year, the ‘Compassion Communities’ programme has started transforming the health and wellbeing of people in Northwest London most affected by the hidden impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Working in partnership with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, Imperial Health Charity awarded funding to support 20 local projects as part ofther Compassionate Communities programme.

Over the last 12 months, these grants have enabled a range of charities, community organisations and local groups to break down barriers and help those most in need access vital care and support.

Each of the projects we’ve supported has addressed a major health problem deepened by the impact of COVID-19, including:

· mental health and wellbeing

· food poverty and obesity; and

· language barriers and misinformation

Making an impact

So far the funding has benefited around 5,000 of the most vulnerable people in Northwest London. Across a range of different projects, community champions have referred nearly 2,000 people to appropriate healthcare services, delivered over 1,200 food parcels to those experiencing food poverty and organised more than 350 training events and workshops.

Image showing the impact of Compassionate Communities funding

"It was as if I emerged from chrsalis, regaining my previous confidence"

Mandy*, Grow Well participant

One of the groups that benefited from Compassionate Communities was the Hammersmith Community Gardens Association, which used its grant to support local people struggling with mental health challenges through therapeutic gardening and cooking courses. The Grow Well in 2021 initiative helped participants spend time closer to nature by sowing seeds, propagating herbs and growing fruit and vegetables.

“The biggest step forward was going along to Grow Well,” said Mandy*, who had been living in isolation for over two years before attending the sessions.

“It was as if I emerged from a chrysalis, slowly but surely regaining my previous confidence. It’s been like a big, secure stepping stone to getting me out and about – being involved and feeling comfortable again talking to new people.”

People potting up plants at Hammersmith Community Gardens Association

Providing expert evaluation

We are evaluating how the Compassionate Communities programme has made a difference over the last 12 months. Initial findings showed the programe had helped connect people to appropriate services, improve their mental and physical health and help them build skills, as well as facilitating social cohesion and developing relationships in the local community.

Laura Lennox, our Lead of Health Improvement and Improvement Science, said:

“While much of the work is still under way, the projects are making excellent progress in improving mental and physical health, building community skills and knowledge, and enriching social engagement.”

Map showing funding distributed across Northwest London

'Far-reaching effects'

Dr Bob Klaber, Director of Strategy, Research and Innovation at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, said:

“The pandemic has had far-reaching effects – not only in our hospitals but also in our local communities. Working together with Imperial Health Charity, we’ve been able to have a transformative impact on the health and wellbeing of the most vulnerable people by building strong relationships with local organisations who really understand the needs of their communities.”

Ian Lush, Chief Executive of Imperial Health Charity, said:

“We’re delighted to see Compassionate Communities making such a big impact – and we hope this initiative is just the beginning as we work to strengthen links with our local community partners and create more opportunities to collaborate in the future.”

Find out more about Compassionate Communities

Discover more about the extraordinary projects supported on the Compassionate Communities webpage.