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Mental health 2019 - Partner Profile - Better Pathways

Who are Better Pathways?


Better Pathways is a Birmingham based charity, established since 1963. Our origins are in the industrial therapy units run from within the old asylums, now mostly closed long-stay mental health hospitals, where industrial therapy was prescribed to promote the wellbeing of patients. In recognition of the need to retrain long-stay patients in preparation for discharge, and of the growing understanding in the late 50s and early 60s that hospitals were not based placed to do this, new models of community based industrial therapy were established. The model for the Birmingham Industrial Therapy Association was based on that of the first such Association in Bristol, ie, the provision of training for work and social skills in the community that reflected work that might be available to patients after discharge. The Birmingham Industrial Therapy Association, now trading as Better Pathways, began by operating a car wash outside of All Saints Hospital in Birmingham, with a group of patients providing a hand car wash service under supervision. It is the only surviving Industrial Therapy Association. Today, we run two thriving social enterprises, one a packing and assembly service in Birmingham, the other a sign-writing and engraving service in Solihull. We provide a safe place to volunteer in meaningful employment under supervision. For our long-term volunteers, Better Pathways can often be their only source of support and social life outside of their home, working alongside colleagues who have become friends over the years.


Others come for short periods of work experience, usually for 12 weeks. Some enjoy social activities organised by our employment specialists, for example, we have an active football team that travels all over the country and that has just entered the Birmingham Ability Counts (football) League.

Better Pathways provides Individual Placement and Support Services under contract to the NHS and to the West Midlands Combined Authority. We are a Centre of Excellence for the work that we do supporting people with mental health issues into employment, working with individuals and employers to keep people in employment for the longer term. We work with Recovery Hubs to ensure that those not yet ready for work, or those that will never work, have access to a range of courses, activities and other opportunities to grow their confidence and independence to enable them to live the fullest lives possible.

We have a highly regarded Mental Health First Aid training team at Better Pathways, delivering training across Birmingham, and far beyond, to many different types of organisation, including to schools. Our USP is our ability to contextualise the training we provide based on our direct experience of supporting people with mental health issues in our social enterprises and of supporting employees in the workplace and employers and other organisational leaders charged with safeguarding the mental wellbeing of their people.

What has been your greatest achievement to date? And were there any measurable outcomes that accompanied this achievement?

Still being here delivering our social enterprise activities after 50 years! We are proud to have been accredited as a Centre of Excellence by the Centre for Mental Health for the work we do supporting people into work. Over the last 18 months we have helped over 250 people into work and upwards of 400 people into training. We continue to get virtually 100% positive feedback from our MHFA course delegates and our social enterprise volunteers report really positive experiences, some still with us after 25, 30 and nearly 40 years!

How many organisations/clients currently utilise the service/solution across the UK?

In 2019/2020:Upwards of 110 volunteers will work in our social enterprisesWe will work with our local mental health trust, with GPs and with Creative Support and Birmingham Mind to support over 1500 service users through our Recovery and Employment contracts. We will train 500 people in Mental Health First Aid

Is there anything you would like to make delegates aware of ahead of the Mental Health 2019 conference on 26th September?

We have just launched our newly published MHFA training brochure and would love to hear from anyone wishing to commission MHFA training. Similarly, we are looking to expand our social enterprise business and, in particular, our packing and assembly enterprise in Digbeth, Birmingham. We would be pleased to receive enquiries about how we might help organisations needing support in these areas.

What do you feel are the key points delegates need to digest when considering a partnership with Better Pathways?

Mental Health First Aid awareness is becoming an increasingly vital requirement in any organisation serious about the health and wellbeing of its people. By using Better Pathways for MHFA training, delegates are being trained by people with unique insight into the impact of poor mental health on individual and organisational performance and into the best strategies to deploy in any given situation. Similarly, when using Better Pathways for packing and assembly services, customers are supporting a long-established highly regarded charity to continue the work it does supporting some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.

If you would like to learn more about Better Pathways please visit https://betterpathways.org.uk/

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