The Community Networks for Family Care is an initiative developed between the Family Therapy Department of South West London and St George's Mental Health Trust, Wandsworth Community Empowerment Network and local leaders of black majority churches. The long term goal of the Community Networks is to begin to address the socio-cultural factors that result in the low uptake of health and well-being services, particularly amongst those who experience severe or multiple disadvantage
What We Did
The Community Networks for Family Care is an initiative developed between the Family Therapy Department of South West London and St George’s Mental Health Trust, Wandsworth Community Empowerment Network and local leaders of black majority churches. The partnership subsequently broadened to include the Wandsworth Clinical Commissioning Group and leaders in the Muslim community in Wandsworth.
The long term goal of the Community Networks is to begin to address the socio-cultural factors that result in the low uptake of health and well-being services, particularly amongst those who experience severe or multiple disadvantage. The pilot project of Community Networks for Family Care focus on addressing factors that frame the poor uptake of mental health services among black Caribbean and African groups, though exposure of and tackling barriers to services.
The first year of the project trained leaders of local black majority churches in the Introduction to Family Therapy. This meant the staff from the Family Therapy Department delivered a 60 hours training course entitled ‘Working with Families’. This course is validated by the Association of Family Therapy which validates all Family Therapy trainings in UK.
The Family Therapy concepts were anchored to faith based narratives. The Pastors translated key Family Therapy concept within their own ministries and work within their communities – a process that involved a co-production of knowledge.
Three factors were identified as major detriments of success of this programme: the leadership capacity of Pastors and ministers, the role of the church as a safe space for parishioners and the language of ministers which allowed them to ‘reframe’ potentially sensitive issues around mental health when engaging with parishioners.
The Pastors and ministers reported using the Family Therapy approach when talking with parishioners who approached them to discuss difficulties in their relationships and worries about mental health concerns. This work was seen as early prevention and the usefulness of it prompted further funding from the Wandsworth CCG to continue training the ministers in the second year of Family Therapy training programme. The second year has a requirement of 60 hours of clinical practice and consequently the ministers offered in excess of 700 hours therapeutic practice to their parishioners. The funding strategy also included training Year One with the Muslim Community Network for Family Care. This group included hospital chaplains, voluntary sector workers plus workers in schools.
Again the focus has been the conversations around distress, couple and family life and about worries about mental health. This has led to some opening up of further developments, the relationship between local mental health providers and the diverse communities they serve.
Wider Active Support
The project emphasises the co-production of knowledge, capitalising on existing strong partnerships and the establishment of safe social spaces. The importance of individuals able to act as ‘bridges’ between therapeutic and non-therapeutic spaces is clear. To this end the key partners were WCEN, local black majority churches, Family Therapy trainers, South London and St George’s Mental Health Trust and Wandsworth CCG.
During the second year of training three members of the Pastors group have been part of Family Therapy teams within the Family Therapy service in the Trust and also one person from the Muslim training group.
This has enabled a relationship and co-production of ideas about faith and mental health well-being between the Family Therapy Department and the local community which is embedded in the practice of working with families. From a training perspective this has enriched the practice of the Family Therapy Department and also the work of faith leaders in their communities. There is an increase in mental health awareness in communities and a more informed understanding of mental health services available locally in the community.
Quotes from a parishioner in local black majority church in response to the question: How will you use this information in your daily life? “Helps me to explore effective ways of solving problems and to not panic when problems arise, taking the time to explore solutions…. understanding that people have different points of view which, does not need to cause conflict.”
Looking Back/Challenges Faced
The work for this project began in 2009 and it has been a slow but necessary process in order to develop trust between partners. There have at times been gaps between the training which has meant work has been undertaken to keep people engaged in this initiative.
The challenges have been to maintain continuity in the project. Also how to continue to consider the fit between the Family Therapy training model and the people with a strong faith background needed to be carefully considered. This led to interesting discussion and attention to meanings. The challenge to the faith leaders was how to engage with members of the community whilst remaining faith leaders and not becoming counsellors.
The sustainability has been addressed by the ongoing consultation in communities and the coming together of leaders in a number of forums to discuss this work. The Head of Family Therapy meets regularly with local faith leaders to offer supervision covering the work with families.
There has been further funding for Year Two of the training for the Muslim network and monies available for training Year One for an Anglican network. The sustainability is added to by the model being used in the day to day work of the faith leaders in different faith contexts.
The work with the leaders of black majority churches has been researched by Dr Rochelle A Burgess from the Centre for Primary Health and Social Care, London Metropolitan University and Health and Community and Development Research Group. London School of Economics and Dr Haider Ali, Open University in ‘Church Based Family Therapy in Wandsworth: Improving Access to Mental Health Services: Programme Evaluation Phase One, Black Pastor Training’.
The East London Mental Health Trust has requested a seminar on Community Networks Family Care to enable possibilities of this work to be taken forward in other Trusts.
Is there any other information you would like to add?
It has been important that there has been diversity in the training team which gave additional thinking to the co-production of the training and subsequent early prevention working communities.