Why we are here


We have recently been writing a lot of funding applications and given presentations across Shropshire, sharing our story and highlighting the impact of our work here at Designs in Mind.


No one says it better than our members

My Case Manager found this group in Oswestry that encouraged you to be who you are, not what is expected from you. They didn’t ask you 20 questions every half hour and allowed you to be quiet when you wanted – they encouraged you to excel in areas that interested you. That group is called Designs in Mind and I can honestly say it has given me my life back. Within 1-2 weeks I felt like me again. I found inspiration, my sense of humour returned, I actually laughed (out loud too) I was normal again. But at home I was still in a rut. So I looked and look and found a business with a house included. I relocated completely, turned my life around – it was hard but enjoyable. I still haven’t unpacked fully, I found a nest of mice, the kitchen flooded – but I handled it all and remained calm. I work all hours but I am thriving and love life – why did I want to end my life? Thank you Designs in Mind, you gave me ‘me back’ and the confidence to actually do it rather than talk about it. I can say I did it – but without Designs in Mind where would I be?

Part of the essential community team

The Kings Fund Report, 2010, Avoiding Hospital Admissions, highlights the evidence for ‘Commissioners and providers implementing assertive case management for people with mental health illnesses’. Designs in Mind is part of that case management, part of the essential community team, working closely with case managers in Community Mental Health Teams, to support people who have been repeatedly hospitalised for mental illness. Too often these people experience a ‘revolving door’, a recurring pattern of discharge and re-admission to hospital because they are not adequately supported in the community. Our service is a natural community resource, a safe environment, with familiar people, fostering choice and enabling people to work with purpose, to take control of their lives and move forward. Designs in Mind has opened up lives that had become narrowed due to isolation, diminished social networks and ill health.

We work with members across the age range, which breaks down barriers and negative attitudes between the generations. The caring environment supports members through stressful and difficult times relating to fluctuations in mental health but also relating to physical ill-health, long term chronic conditions, and crisis in other life events. For example we have members who have been bereaved, gone through breast cancer treatment, cope with diabetes, fibromyalgia, pregnancy and birth, loss of a kidney, severe back pain, spinal operations, separation, domestic abuse; Designs in Mind has been the anchor that has grounded them through these very difficult times, without which they report, their mental health would have deteriorated to the point of needing more input from the Community Mental Health Teams or hospitalisation.


In 2013, Designs in Mind (Previously The Project Group) was interviewed as part of a research project for the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). The research had three objectives: to demonstrate ‘Big Society’ alternative approaches to service delivery in rural areas; to identify optimum operational conditions for alternative delivery models to deliver successfully in rural areas and identify the barriers; and to share learning from existing examples of alternative service delivery models both successful and unsuccessful. We were one of thirteen case studies to be included in the published report. The authors noted the practical service we provide to people in need:

“The members of the group, who have been referred by health care professionals, are usually unemployed and many have low levels of self-confidence. Without peer support and interaction it can be very difficult for individuals to move forward which, in turn, increases dependence on statutory services.”

For our members, involvement with creative and purposeful activity develops alternative responses to mental distress, increases levels of social contact and re-establishes their identity to make decisions and take control in their lives. This in turn reduces waiting lists for counsellors and psychological services and reduces the frequency of GP attendance.

Designs in Mind is not time limited, members are able to use the service for as long as they need. Members consistently tell us they fear they would not be alive if they had not had the opportunities through Designs in Mind. This service supports people through setbacks and prevents many from relapse reducing emergency admissions to hospital. We support people when they move on to work, whether paid employment, self-employment or volunteering, and provide the ongoing stability and support that enables them to remain independent and active.

Our evaluation reports from 2013 – 2014 and 2014 – 2015 highlight 95% of members have increased confidence, self-esteem, interest in life and have learnt practical skills. Those coping with depression experienced a significant reduction in symptoms of anxiety and depression. They felt a greater personal concern for health and wellbeing, and felt more empowered to make choices in relation to health, as well as having greater capacity to cope with illness or physical pain.

In 2013 – 2014 Designs in Mind supported 6 members to move on to employment and 3 members into education or training. In 2014 – 2015 Designs in Mind supported 2 members to move on to employment, 3 to volunteering, 1 to self-employment and 3 to education. This demonstrates we are successful in empowering our members to greater independence and less dependency on services.

We use an ‘Outcomes Database’ developed by CSIP West Midlands (now WMRDC – West Midlands Regional Development Centre for the NHS) which includes the scores of an evaluation tool, based on Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale (WEMWBS), allowing us to capture the social and psychological wellbeing of our members.

Value for Money

We believe we are value for money and can demonstrate the resource savings we offer the local health and social care services. Operating 3 days per week for 48 weeks a year, for an average of 20 members attending the equivalent of two sessions a day, we provide services that could cost the statutory sector £195,840 per year to deliver. Research has shown that to provide adult day care services through the public sector costs £34 for each mental health service user per session, it costs us £18.* This does not include factoring in other reductions in services used by our members, for example, fewer visits to GP’s; lower hospital admissions; less prescription usage.

For every £1 the local health service invests in Designs in Mind we provide an equivalent return on investment of £4.68.

* Designs in Mind Accounts 2012-2013 & Page 38 Unit Costs of Health and Social Care 2011 by Lesley Curtis, Personal Social Services Research Unit, University of Kent. 2011


Designs in Mind is an award winning company, recognised for its innovative aim of creating a thriving business that at the same time empowers adults with mental health needs.

In 2014 we were nominated for the BBC Radio 4 ‘All in the Mind’ Mental Health Awards which celebrate individuals, professionals and groups supporting those with mental health needs.

In 2011 we were one of 130 winners, nationally, of The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service; the MBE for groups of volunteers who work in their local community for the benefit of others. This award is the highest award given to voluntary groups for outstanding work in their local community. Those receiving the award in 2011 were selected from more than 400 groups nominated by members of the public who have been helped personally or witnessed the benefits of a group’s work in their community. We were nominated by the mother of a member, and we were the only successful nomination in Shropshire. This prestigious UK National Honour recognises outstanding voluntary contributions and sets the national benchmark for excellence in volunteering, with the work of those awarded being judged to be of the highest standard. We received the award for the setting up and running of a creative arts business, by and for adults and young people with mental health problems.

In 2010 we won the Proctor and Gamble 4th Future Friendly Award, for our innovative approach to incorporating recycled materials into our artwork and retail range, and sharing our enthusiasm with the wider community. We were one of five projects shortlisted from over 200 entries. The public voted for their favourite project on the Future Friendly website. This award brought the group a lot of publicity and the prize money (£10,000!), the award was used to purchase equipment (e.g. a laser cutter, workshop materials, a computer) to provide further services to our members.