Luton Mental Health Project


We worked with Luton based clubs, coaches and employers to establish a highly skilled and competent workforce programme with our key partners. The key target demographic for this project was the Asian community. In particular we wanted to build on current engagement with female volunteers. We knew from previous work that their needs are quite specific, and therefore a tailored programme was needed - for example some courses should be female only and timings for training must work around key religious festivals.

We also wanted to invest into individuals from the professional workforce (eg coaches) who originally started their careers as volunteers but have developed their qualifications and are now in employment in the leisure sector. We knew that they have an intimate understanding of the needs locally and if we continued to invest in their development they would have an impact on reaching in-actives locally who may have mental health issues and encourage them to seek support as well as link them with activities locally as and when appropriate.

Aims and objectives

  • To provide training that will offer local partners and providers with the opportunity to support the community with a more experienced and specialised professional workforce as well as coaches and volunteers with the knowledge and understanding required to offer pathways to sustained activity opportunities.
  • Identify from within the community, local partner employees and volunteers (including local sports/community clubs, mental health and leisure providers) and offer the opportunity to learn about mental health and understand how to embed this into their delivery.
  • To investigate creating a broader workforce by providing qualifications for adults and young people living with or having experienced poor mental health who are currently volunteers, and linking them to sports and community clubs and leisure services.

The Results

  • Our funding enabled the creation of sport specific and mental health awareness courses to develop the skills of coaches and leaders in a diverse community, as well as increasing the awareness of mental wellbeing in the community.
  • We are incredibly proud to have worked with Active Luton to successfully create opportunities for Muslim women and girls to embrace learning to swim.
  • Our workforce development funding enabled the Institute of Swimming to run a women-only pilot. The pilot trained five members as assistant swimming teachers, who support existing female swimming teachers in delivering lessons to children and teenage girls. This approach increased the opportunities available to learn to swim 'in the community by the community'.
  • Read the full case study here to see how Active Luton successfully integrates BAME communities into aquatic timetabling and workforce.

Case Studies

Precious Pearls - Training a new generation of swimming teachers

Precious Pearls aim is to develop activities and opportunities for girls and women in Luton. The group is based in Bury Park but has a wider community remit and has members across the whole of Luton.

Gaining new skills to benefit the wider community

Precious Pearls runs women-only swimming lessons for Muslim women and girls at one of the school pools within the heart of the community. A lack of funding meant this group was going to be unsustainable.

The group secured funding through a Community-Led Local Development programme and with the additional support of a the team BEDS&LUTON' workforce development fund, the Institute of Swimming were able to run a women-only pilot. The pilot trained initially trained five members of the group as assistant swimming teachers, who will support existing female swimming teachers in delivering lessons to children and teenage girls. To date eight women have now been trained as assistant teachers from Precious Pearls.

As the numbers wanting to participate increased, the far reaching benefits of the programme were seen

  • Improved health and fitness including increased cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength and endurance
  • Improved mental health benefits and reduced stress and anxiety
  • Increased confidence and self esteem
  • Strength and confidence to talk out about personal family issues and an understanding of support mechanisms available
  • Greater awareness and understanding of opportunities available

As the confidence of the women increased the desire to learn new skills had no boundaries and several were trained as Activity Leaders enabling activity sessions to be developed within the community to increase the opportunity for physical activity as well as supporting holiday activity and engaging volunteers to mentor and support creating sustainable and regular activity opportunities.

This approach has created sustainable opportunities to learn to swim and physical activity sessions 'in the community by the community' and gain important life skills central to the Islamic faith as well as increasing the sustainability of the group.

Mental Health Training

To support the excellent work undertaken, the team BEDS&LUTON Workforce funding also enable training of some of the existing volunteers and new volunteers in the Active IQ Level 2 Award in Mental Health Awareness including Mental Health First Aid. This greatly enhances opportunities for Precious Pearls to engage with and being able to link with the community and support those with the greatest need and to act as 'Champions' within the wider community. They have also successfully received funding and training with a Level 4 CSE practitioner.

The Mental Health Awareness qualification was delivered as a blended learning qualification across the 2 units with candidates coming together to network (2.5 hours) and discuss each unit, experiences and ask questions prior to undertaking online learning supported by a hard copy manual and then the final assessment was taken on line.

Feedback from the candidates has identified that this method of delivery has enabled them to learn in a timescale that suited individual needs and requirements, have the benefit of a tutor who was able to support learning and face to face interaction gave all candidates the opportunity to discuss experiences and ask questions.

Kamillah Lacey, the driving force behind the Precious Pearls commented

'Without the support and funding received through this training opportunity we would not have been able to continue and develop swimming sessions for females.

The funding has enabled us to training women within the community to engage with those who have been unable to access swimming previously (especially older girls) giving them a life skill they may never have gained.

We have been able to create a sustainable programme with those who have been trained now volunteering as part of the programme and eventually they will be able to gain further qualifications and employment opportunities which they never thought would be possible'.

Active Luton - Neil Hobbs

Neil has worked for Active Luton for a number of years having started using the gym to improve his own health and wellbeing. Neil became so passionate and engaged in how physical activity has had such a positive impact on his own wellbeing, fitness and weight loss that he trained to become first a fitness instructor and then personal trainer.

The opportunity for Neil to complete a new and exciting qualification (L3 Aquatic Activity for Health) became available in late 2019. After this Neil started to deliver sessions as part of the Active Luton's Community Health and Wellbeing programme (Total Wellbeing Luton) as he felt that his own experiences and battles with the loss of a loved one and poor mental and physical health would enable him to engage with those in the great need of help and support.

The funding through this project has enabled Neil to complete his National Rescue Award for Swimming Teachers and Coaches as well as his L2 Award in Mental Health Awareness and he is now successfully delivering a weekly programme at Lewsey Park Pool to 15 participants and so successful has this programme been that he is looking at opportunities to expand the programme further.

Community Needs

Working across a number of the most deprived wards in Luton, Community Needs offers opportunity for communities to undertake physical activity, but has been limited in the type of activity it can offer due to insufficient coaching / activators and those able to support the delivery. The diversity of the community requires the group to provide activity to males and female only as well as children some of which can be mixed gender whilst other activity that needs to be separated into male / female.

The group has now identified a school whereby they are able to offer weekend and holiday activity on a regular basis but need to increase the numbers of volunteers and support staff to ensure that they can reach the wider audience.

Training opportunities that have been identified include both coaching and support staff qualifications including first aid.

The group are keen to act as 'Champions' within the community to raise the awareness of good mental health and how activity can act as a catalyst for behaviour change to help improve the lifestyles of individuals, families and the community and subsequently employment prospects.

In this initial phase of the funding 1 candidate has been successfully trained as a L2 Activity Leader, with one person still undergoing training with the view of gaining additional experience and confidence to be assessed later in the year and hopefully in time for October half term activity sessions.

First Aid provision (L3 Paediatric First Aid) has now been completed so the group has a volunteer base which enables weekly activity to be delivered and will enhance to offer available going forward especially during school holidays.

The group has now successfully qualified 3 lifeguards and are in the process of identifying community swimming opportunities. The group have also partnered with One Nation to access their swimming sessions at Denbigh High School and the groups are working in partnership to offer lifeguards for these sessions and access ongoing training to ensure that the lifeguards are able to keep their skills up to date