How mental health charity Mind used Equals Spend cards to support community groups during the lockdowns
Nobody is alone on their mental health journey, and often meeting with other people to discuss issues, share advice and connect over shared experiences can make a huge difference. Weekly peer support meetups are a common format, often taking place at the park, in the town hall or a community centre. These groups provide a lifeline for people in need – but in early 2020, the coronavirus suddenly upended people’s ability to gather in groups. In some areas, up to 80 percent of groups were unable to meet.
As lockdown restrictions became tighter in the fight against the coronavirus, anxiety and loneliness spiked, with the need for peer support being greater than ever. Mental health groups, like most other businesses, had to rapidly move online. However, many organised groups did not have the personnel to guide the move, and some participants didn’t have access to the internet, which meant the process was easier said than done.
Peer support – when people use their own experiences to help each other. They aim to bring people with shared experiences together, provide a space where they feel accepted and treat everyone’s experiences as equally important.
The mental health charity Mind has long worked with peer-support groups, and they were keen to do their part to support them through the Covid crisis. Mind first began working with Equals Money in 2019, and when the charity established its Side by Side programme to assist peer support groups with moving online.
Many of these groups were, and still are, entirely informal, so have no way of accessing the likes of banking infrastructure. Instead, Mind encouraged groups to appoint a leader who they sent an Equals Money card to, pre-loaded with funding from the charity which would be topped up on a monthly basis. With their Equals Money cards and Side by Side funding, groups were able to purchase Zoom licences, data packages and second-hand devices, enabling them to continue their meetings remotely.
Once the immediate need of delivering technology was resolved, the groups then bought materials for group activities, such as gardening tools and art supplies, and posted them to members so they had something to occupy themselves with during lockdown. This created new connections that didn’t exist before the pandemic, such as one group that shares gardening updates over WhatsApp. These purchases would usually have come out of a member’s pocket, but with Side by Side and Equals Money, Mind has been able to step in.
“Having the opportunity to stay connected with other group members who were experiencing the same challenges has been invaluable”
Liam Pywell, Project Lead at Mind UK
Liam Pywell, the Project Lead at Mind was pleased with the outcome of the Side by Side programme. “Peer support can make a huge difference and, in many cases, can be life-saving. Having the opportunity to stay connected with other group members who were experiencing the same challenges has been invaluable” he said. He added that providing these community groups with the financial support they needed would simply “not have been financially viable” without Equals Money.
“When comparing Equals Money to other available services, we found them to be substantially lower on cost,” Liam explained. It wasn’t just the costs that stood out to the charity either: “the system interface was the most user-friendly, the process of creating and distributing cards was much simpler, and the customer support was of much higher quality.”
Every Equals Money client gets their own account manager who is on-hand to help them get the most out of our services and grow their business. Liam said: “our account manager was able to join us for a training session in London to help everyone understand how to use the system. Thereafter, we have been able to address any challenges and add new accounts with ease, thanks to our great relationship with them.”
Those donating to Mind want to be sure that their money is being used effectively, which means the charity’s finance team need to be in complete control, and have full visibility of what’s being spent and where. The Equals Money platform gives Mind’s financial team an overview of all of the groups’ cards, the transaction history for each, the ability to freeze them if necessary and much more. Similarly, says Liam, “being able to annotate individual transactions or freeze a card if it was ever lost are fantastic features to have.”
What’s next for the Mind Communities Team?
The Side by Side programme will come to an end in July, and any leftover funds will then be transferred to the National Survivor User Network (NSUN). The team at NSUN will offer grants to community support groups, once again using Equals Money to help them move online permanently or transition back to an in-person model.
Empowering charities like Mind and helping other businesses continue to be agile in how they operate is exactly what our expense management service was designed to do. We’re inspired by the work that Mind does, and we look forward to continuing to work with the charity in the future.
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