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Lottery £40m for community health projects that increase happiness more than riches

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Release date:
30 5 2013


£40m of Lottery funding is to be invested in community health schemes across England as new research reveals that taking part in these projects can make you almost three times happier than if your income were to double.

14 organisations, including local health bodies and leading charities, will receive the funding from Big Lottery Fund to deliver the interventions to encourage healthier eating, increase physical activity and promote good mental health.

Many of the projects will target vulnerable and marginalised groups such as families struggling with food poverty; older people experiencing loneliness and isolation; and young homeless people.

The funding comes as research from a five-year report compiled by Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) and the New Economics Foundation (NEF) suggests that community-based health projects can significantly improve people’s happiness and life satisfaction.

The research - which surveyed just under 2,000 people taking part in Lottery-funded schemes including cooking lessons for families, cycling and therapeutic gardening projects - showed an average increase in life satisfaction from 6.5 to 7.1 on a ten point scale, which was sustained at least six months after their involvement in projects had ended. To put this into perspective, evidence suggests that even if a person’s income were to double, life satisfaction scores would only rise by just over 0.2 (see notes to editors for more information).

The data, which is one of the biggest sets available in the UK, looking specifically at the impact of community health interventions, also found the proportion of people reporting depressive symptoms fell 35 per cent after taking part in projects and the amount of people feeling relaxed increased by 41 per cent.

The projects increased self esteem, with almost 25 per cent more people feeling good about themselves and optimistic about the future. Participants were also more likely to eat five portions of fruit and veg each day, an increase of 16 per cent, and become more active, with those only taking part in low levels of physical activity falling 21 by per cent.

Building on that research, Big Lottery Fund has today awarded £40m Lottery funding to around 200 health projects that will work in communities across England.

Big Lottery Fund England Chair Nat Sloane, said: “People might assume that more traditional clinical approaches are the answer to improving society’s health and wellbeing and tackling specific health problems such as obesity, mental ill health and type 2 diabetes.

“But our evidence suggests that very effective solutions can lie within communities themselves. It shows that interventions delivered by charities and organisations that understand the makeup of local communities, and will work with local people to deliver exactly what they need and in the way they need it, can have a very significant impact.

“That’s why we’re investing a further £40m today in community health projects over the next two years. As well as directly enabling tens of thousands more people across the country to improve their health and lead more fulfilling lives, the investment will help us build an even better evidence base about what works.”

Projects receiving funding today include Touch Wood, being run by Westbank in locations across Somerset, which will offer sociable and practical experiences to men of different ages working with trees, wood and natural processes such as carving, whittling and sawing. The project will enable men living in rural communities who feel isolated, to connect with others in a supportive and creative environment, developing and passing on their skills and interests resulting in improved mental health and personal relationships, increased physical activity and healthier eating. 

And the Enable East programme, part of the North Essex Partnership NHS Trust will use funding to run projects in two areas with a high concentration of military families, Northumberland and County Durham. An interactive programme of workshops will support the health and wellbeing of families of the armed forces as evidence shows this group is at a higher risk of developing mental health problems without the right support. There will also be a weekend retreat for siblings of lost and wounded servicemen specifically aimed at supporting young people’s mental health.

Big Lottery Fund is also making awards to six national programmes of work led by leading charities and health campaigns to build on successful Lottery-funded campaigns delivered over the last five years. They include Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, who will extend their mental health anti-stigma campaign Time to Change - currently supported by Comic Relief and Department of Health - and work in particular with African and Caribbean communities, with an award of £3.6m; Sustrans which receives £3.6m to deliver 19 projects with a range of partners encouraging people to walk and cycle more through their Travel Actively portfolio; and Foyer Federation, who will use an award of £3.6m to tackle health inequalities facing homeless and disadvantaged young people.

Also receiving funding today, Children’s Food Trust receives £3.6m to extend their Let’s Get Cooking school-based cooking clubs that improve the food that children and their families eat across England. The Food for Life Partnership, led by Soil Association, which has in the last five years delivered a 28 per cent increase in primary school-age children reporting eating 5-a-day, will use a £3.6m award to develop their ‘whole setting’ model and take it into new priority sectors for public health including early years, hospitals, care homes, universities, and workplaces

Age UK will use £3.6m to build on the success of their Fit as a Fiddle programme, ensuring older people have access to a tailored package of support that improves their wellbeing, keeps them out of the GP surgery and feeling happy.

For a full list of awards being made today, visit: http://www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/global-content/-/media/Files/wb_may_2013

For more information about BIG’s evaluation, visit: http://www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/research/health-and-well-being/evaluating-well-being

Big Lottery Fund Press Office: 020 7211 1888
Out of hours media contact: 07867 500 572
Full details of the Big Lottery Fund programmes and grant awards are available on the website: www.biglotteryfund.org.uk
Ask BIG a question here: https://ask.biglotteryfund.org.uk
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Notes to Editors

• The Big Lottery Fund (BIG), the largest distributor of National Lottery good cause funding, is responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised for good causes by the National Lottery.

BIG is committed to bringing real improvements to communities and the lives of people most in need and has been rolling out grants to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK. Since June 2004 BIG has awarded close to £6bn.

• BIG’s Well-being programme: In 2007, Big Lottery Fund awarded £165m funding through its Well-being programme to support the development of healthier lifestyles and to improve well-being. The programme focuses on three strands: mental health – to help people and communities to improve mental well-being; physical activity – to help people to become more physically active in their daily lives and in their communities; and healthy eating - for children, parents and the wider community to eat more healthily. To deliver this programme, The Big Lottery Fund appointed a number of organisations that will each deliver a portfolio of projects in England. The funding awarded today builds on the work of the portfolios in each region and on a national level.

• BIG’s evaluation of Well-being projects:
The evaluation of Big Lottery Fund’s well-being programme, conducted by the Centre for Local Economic Strategies and the New Economics Foundation, is one of the first evaluations to look comprehensively at different domains of well-being (mental health, physical activity and healthy eating) as well as social well-being, and the inter-relations between each.  We designed specific tools for data collection and analysis and we’ve developed one of the biggest data sets in the UK that looks specifically at these domains.  The evaluation specifically measures changes in well-being across all most groups; primary school children; secondary school children, adults and people over 65.

Researchers surveyed people at the beginning, end and three to six months after taking part in a project, over three thousand people in total. There were other benefits as well around increased community cohesion and improved skills; and volunteers finding that they themselves improved their wellbeing as a result of their role.

For life satisfaction, a standard life satisfaction question was used, which is replicated from a wide range of sources, including Defra’s Sustainable Indicator Set, the European Social Survey, the Gallup World Poll and the Annual Population Survey (ONS). Respondents answer on a scale of 0-10 where 0 indicates ‘dissatisfied’ and 10 indicates ’satisfied’

In terms of measuring other aspects of personal wellbeing, a set of nine questions from the Warwick Edinburgh Mental Well-Being Scale (WEMWBS) was used covering a range of aspects of well-being including: self-esteem; resilience and optimism; competence and autonomy; and relatedness. 

Increases in life satisfaction:
The results from the Annual Population Survey (ONS) show that average life satisfaction in the UK from April 2011 to March 2012 was 7.4 (out of 10).  By contrast, the mean life satisfaction of our respondents before they took part in projects was 6.5; this relatively low level of well-being and shows that the projects we are funding were successfully reaching people with low levels of wellbeing (which was our objective).

The evaluation has found a clear and significant increase in life satisfaction from 6.5 to 7.1 on a 10 point scale, placing it much closer to the UK average of 7.4.

This increase is quite a substantial change given the relative insensitivity of this measure to other ‘hard’ effects. Based on analysis of the British Household Panel Survey, an individual’s income doubling leads on average to an increase of life satisfaction of just over 0.2 (Powdthavee N, 2010 ‘How much does money really matter? Estimating the causal effects of income on happiness’ Empirical Economics, 39,1:77-92)

• BIG Lottery Fund was formally established by Parliament on 1 December 2006.

• Since the National Lottery began in 1994, 28p from every pound spent by the public has gone to good causes. As a result, over £30 billion has now been raised and more than 400,000 grants awarded across arts, sport, heritage, charities, health, education and the environment.