|The Honeymooners entertaining the audience at the end of the Herts Mind Network AGM|
|Herts Mind Network|
Last night I attended the AGM of the Herts Mind Network at Watford and was very impressed by recent improvements. I first got involved with the committee of what was then Mind in Dacorum in 1991, at a time when all there was were five brief "drop in" sessions a week run by volunteers in Berkhamsted and Hemel Hempstead - and the National Health Service was planning to close the long stay hospitals. To enable us to cope with the influx of new clients we decided the only way to expand was to invest our small reserve on employing a part time coordinator and telling the NHS we would cater for the extra workload until the money ran out - or we got a grant! It worked - and not only did we get a grant for a "drop in" supervisor but we also got a grant to run a one-to-one befriending scheme and employed Julie. Since then there has been a steady improvement in the services offered, and the organisation has expanded, by merger with other Mind Groups, and hopefully later this year it will be in a position to deliver services over the whole county.
Since becoming Herts Mind Network, with Julie as CEO, and Fran (one of Julie's first befriending volunteers) as Chair, the organisation has expanded and there are now Well-being Centres in Bishops Stortford, Hemel Hempstead, South Oxhey, Waltham Cross, Ware and Watford - and a wide range of counselling and other services are offered tailored to local needs. An important part of the success has been peer support and 70% of the staff have life experiences of mental illness. One of the great successes recently as been in the field of social enterprise - getting people back to work. For instance one group delivers high quality grounds maintenance services to public, private and community sector organisations, whilst providing paid employment for individuals who have faced barriers to work through experience of mental and/or emotional distress.
While the group's income now includes over £1,000,000 in grants to provide competitively priced services, there is still a need to raise money in other ways (such as by donations to this web site) to help develop and provide much needed additional services which are not covered by grants. In addition to money many people also donate their time, as volunteers. At a time when demand for services is growing and money (including charitable giving) is harder to get, every little helps. So a big THANK YOU to everyone who has helped by making a donation as a result of using this web site.