Sunderland’s Better Mental Health Evaluation

Independent evaluation of Sunderland City Council’s Better Mental Health projects


How mental health provision could be improved to deliver equitable and effective support services

The quantity of the population experiencing mental ill health is rising, and this has been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to this challenge the UK Government published the COVID-19 Mental Health and Wellbeing Recovery Action Plan for 2021 to 2022. This was accompanied by £15 million of funding to support its implementation.

A portion of this funding was allocated to 40 local authorities to commission evidence-based mental health interventions. Focus was placed on reducing inequalities and targeting marginalised groups such as those experiencing socio-economic deprivation, BAME communities and young people.

Sunderland City Council received funding as part of this programme. It commissioned nine projects run by locally based community organisations to improve the provision of mental health support in the city. These included:

  • An out of hours support service for university students.
  • A listening ear service for parents of children using mental health services.
  • An outreach programme to increase awareness of mental illness in the BAME community.

Urban Foresight was commissioned to conduct an independent evaluation of these projects to assess the process and impacts delivered.

A mixed methods approach was used, comprising a desk-based review, quantitative analysis of provider data, and ongoing qualitative engagement with service providers and users. This highlighted what worked well during the programme and what could be improved in the future.

A clearly written report outlined the impacts achieved, gaps in provision and areas for improvement. Prioritised recommendations for future mental health provision in the city were also provided and presented to the Directorate Management Team at Sunderland City Council.

This work is being taken forward, with further funding allocated to ensure that the city’s residents have access to the mental health support they need.  Through our work, we have contributed towards improving population level health outcomes and reducing persistent health inequalities.


Image credit: Dim Hou