The fund, set up in 2021 by the Scottish Government, aims to create a strategic and preventative approach to improving mental health within local communities. In 2021, over 170 requests were made, and 121 grants were given, totaling £1,320,000 around the Edinburgh area.
Due to the success of the scheme, the Scottish Government announced a further £15,000,000 for the fund in 2022, with over £1,200,000 going to Edinburgh. The Edinburgh Voluntary Organisations Council has elected to give some of that to Equal Futures, a local charity that supports people with a learning disability to plan their future, build meaningful relationships, and grow their confidence in social situations.
Jane Mcallister, Equal Futures project coordinator for Edinburgh, discussed the importance of the work they do. She said:
Assisting the families we support to be well integrated in their own communities has such a positive impact on their long term wellbeing. This in turn benefits the community over all as these families go on to rely less on stretched formal government services.
It is the benefits Equal Futures brings to the individuals they support, as well as the net positives for the wider community, that convinced the Edinburgh Voluntary Organisations Council to award them the grant. The funds shall be used by Jane to strengthen the services they already provide around the Edinburgh area, including:
The funding will support me [ the project coordinator for Edinburgh] in being able to recruit suitable volunteers from the local community, who will be matched with the individuals who benefit from our services. It will help locate, train, and provide ongoing support to the superb volunteers that are so crucial to Equal Futures, allowing us to reduce the social isolation faced by adults with a learning disability or autism.
Jane goes on to explain the impact the work of the volunteers has on the individuals they are matched with.
The grant should be able to help the families we work with develop their very own support network around them, firmly root them within their local community, and offer long term reassurance that they are not alone.