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New funding from The National Lottery Community Fund to support the expansion of Shared Reading across mental health settings

Written by Lily Kehoe, 12th December 2023

We're delighted to have been awarded £120,000 by The National Lottery Community Fund to support work over the next three years to expand Shared Reading across mental health settings in Merseyside and Cheshire.

In Shared Reading, a novel, short story or poem is read aloud with a group of people, one of them a Reader Leader trained by us. The group are then provided the opportunity to stop and talk about what they have just read, and encouraged by the Reader Leader to respond personally if they would like, sharing feelings, thoughts and memories provoked by the reading. No other organisation makes use of literature in this way. 

The funding will be used to build on our 15 plus years' experience and existing work using its Shared Reading model in the mental health sector, in response to latest estimates from the National Audit Office which put the current mental health waiting list at 1.2million.

In 2022, 95% of Shared Reading group members reported that participating made them feel better, 81% felt it helped them to connect with others in a deeper way and 94% felt a sense of belonging.

With this additional funding, our aim is to establish more free, accessible groups available to all; in community settings for those managing the mental health impact at home and in need of connection; on inpatient wards for those whose existing mental health issues have been exacerbated and led to hospital admission; and in recovery services such as MIND, Reach Men’s Centre and No.71 Crisis Café in Chester, for those navigating their transition back into society. 

Katie Clark, The Reader’s Director of Literature said:The financial stress of the ongoing cost-of-living crisis is putting more people at risk of poor mental health while, in many places, the support services they need are struggling to cope with demand. Through something as simple as Shared Reading – people can help each other to cope with big things like cost-of-living pressures that can feel out of our control and build resilience at a community-level.”

Geetha Rabindrakumar, Director of Impact, Partnerships and Communities at The Reader said: “This investment from The National Lottery Community Fund will support us in taking the next vital steps to become a valuable part of a joined-up system of UK mental healthcare with prevention at its heart. With this support together we can work to help break and prevent the UK’s cycle of ill mental health by building and testing local networks of Shared Reading support at every stage of people’s mental health journeys.” 

Jack, Shared Reading group member at Spider Project Café 71 in Chester said:  

The group has given me a great opportunity to talk to real people and have real conversations, which I enjoy.  I’ve discovered a great feeling of wellbeing and self-worth that I haven’t experienced in a long time. 

The National Lottery Community Fund recently launched its new strategy, ‘It starts with community’, which will underpin its efforts to distribute at least £4 billion of National Lottery funding by 2030.  

As part of this, the funder has four key missions, which are to support communities to come together, be environmentally sustainable, help children and young people thrive and enable people to live healthier lives.  

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