Shipley-based charity The Cellar Trust has won a major national award for its work supporting people across Bradford District and Craven, and the surrounding areas who are struggling with their mental health to live well and independently in the community.

Following a rigorous selection and assessment process, The Cellar Trust was chosen from more than 400 charities across the UK as one of the 10 winners of the 2023 GSK IMPACT Awards which are delivered in partnership with leading health and care charity The King’s Fund. Now in their 26th year, the awards are a mark of excellence in the charity sector, designed to recognise the outstanding work of small and medium sized charities working to improve people’s health and wellbeing in the UK. This year winners will receive £40,000 in unrestricted funding as well as expert support and leadership development provided by The King’s Fund.

Bradford is one of the 20% most deprived local authorities in England, with issues such as poverty, unemployment and poor housing, all of which can lead to poor mental health. Bradford has amongst the highest levels of severe and common mental health problems nationally and the proportion of people sectioned under the Mental Health Act is twice the national average.

The Cellar Trust (TCT) was established in the mid-1980s following the closure of the mental health hospitals to support people with long term mental health problems to engage in meaningful activity. The charity has since expanded to deliver crisis support and other services across Bradford and the surrounding areas of Airedale, Wharfedale and Craven. It now works in close partnership with local health services and other voluntary organisations. Last year it supported around 7500 people through its services.

TCT has teamed up with other local charities including Mind in Bradford, to run Safe Spaces, a service to support people in emotional distress who may also be self-harming or having suicidal thoughts via same day one to one support to help deescalate the crisis. Support is offered in-person or by phone, with support workers based in Bradford and Keighley and crisis drop in cafes (hosted by other charity partners) in eight locations across the district. In the year ending March 2022 the service delivered 10,983 sessions of support to 1,749 people.

TCT’s Pathways to Employment service provides support to those with severe or enduring mental health problems to help them move towards or into paid employment, and the charity also offers training to employers on how to support people returning to work.

The Award judges were particularly struck by the charity’s pioneering approach to embedding ‘peer support’ across its work. The majority of TCT’s services are delivered by people who have experienced mental health issues and who are able to share their own knowledge and practical advice to help others. The charity has developed its own accredited training in the use of peer support and its model has been recognised by NHS England as best practice for working in mental health.

The award win comes at a time when many charities find themselves working in a uniquely challenging environment. The long-term consequences of Covid and the current cost of living crisis are having a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of many communities, public services are under additional pressure, and charity finances have been hit hard. Despite this, The Cellar Trust has continued to innovate and expand its services.

Working in partnership with three other local charities – Project 6, HALE and Carers Resource – TCT is part of the Multi Agency Support Team (MAST). The team works with two local NHS hospitals to provide a range of support on mental health, alcohol misuse, social prescribing and frailty. The team works in A&Es and across the wards at Bradford Royal Infirmary and Airedale General Hospitals and also provides follow up support for people in the community. Last year, the MAST team supported 2,662 people across the two hospitals. After three months, only 14% of people reported they had re-presented at A&E.

Lisa Weaks, Senior Associate at The King’s Fund, said: “The Cellar Trust has grown quickly to develop a wide range of services supporting people with persistent or severe mental health issues in an area where people are experiencing many challenges. In the process it has created a sector-leading model of peer support and has influenced improvements in local and national mental health services. Its one team approach to working with a variety of voluntary sector partners has enabled the charity to help reduce demand on local health services and led to significant improvements in people’s mental wellbeing.”

Commenting on the award, Kim Shutler, CEO of The Cellar Trust, said: “We are delighted to win this prestigious national award. The Cellar Trust came from humble beginnings starting in a cellar in Bradford and although we have grown and developed over the years, we remain incredibly committed to our local area. It has, and continues to be a very challenging time for charities, and we are incredibly grateful to the team, partners and our supporters who help us carry on the vital work we deliver in the community.”

One of the key aims of the GSK IMPACT Awards programme is to develop leaders in the charity sector and all winners are invited to build on their success and take part in a tailored leadership development programme run by The King’s Fund.