Wednesday 31 March 2021

Connecting Minds learning report


“The ability of young people to identify their own way of improving 

their mental health and wellbeing is key to them having 

a greater understanding of themselves and how they feel”

"Connecting minds is great for young people”



This report is a learning evaluation of the Connecting Minds programme. Funding from the Coronavirus Community Support Fund, distributed by The National Lottery Community Fund, enabled the programme to run from 1st October 2020 to 31st March 2021.

Connecting Minds expresses an Advantaged Thinking belief in young people as advocated by the UK Foyer Federation. The programme works in an asset-based way by equipping young people with additional knowledge and skills that add to their existing strengths to explore wellbeing solutions. Young people are able to take greater responsibility over their own health decisions with increased understanding and resource. The programme also gives staff the confidence and tools to work with young people on their mental wellbeing in positive ways with an emphasis on person-centred conversations and youth leadership.  

This report identifies compelling evidence that Connecting Minds produces a positive impact on young people’s mental wellbeing, increases a sustainable focus on healthy lifestyles, and supports practitioners to advance young people’s progress. Connecting Minds can clearly assist supported housing projects such as Foyers to promote public health messages and support mental wellbeing.

      The overall impact of Connecting Minds:

·       Increased Foyers’ average impact on health and wellbeing outcomes by 20% in comparison with performance in Foyer Federation Accreditation data.

·       Helped 97% of young people to identify and progress wellbeing goals

·       Impacted positively on the health and wellbeing of 93% of young people

·       Showed that, with the right support, young people prioritised investment in mental wellbeing goals over other health areas

·       Achieved a 97% recommendation rate from participants

·       Benefitted 90 people, including 70 young people and 20 staff.

The learning report is organised into seven sections:

1) Background to Connecting Minds 

2) The Foyer Delivery partners 

3) The Health Projects

4) The Learning Resources 

5) Programme Impacts

6) Performance statistics and feedback 

7) Conclusion and final recommendations


The report has been written by Colin Falconer of InspireChilli with expert input from Bea Herbert of States of Mind and contributions from the young people and staff of Coops, Dove Cott, Swan and On Route Foyers.  


Connecting Minds could not have existed without the generous support provided by the National Lottery Community Fund using funds from The Office for Civil Society, part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). Thanks also goes to the commitment of young people and staff at participating Foyers, to Ella Gregory for sharing her insights on the States of Mind resources, and to the Foyer Federation for their encouragement to be Advantaged Thinking. 

Final recommendations in the report include suggestions for the Foyer Federation as well as for funders and decision makers with an interest in supporting young people’s health and wellbeing.


Background to Connecting Minds

Connecting Minds set out to inspire young people in supported housing settings to take control of their mental health and wellbeing. The original initiative was designed by States of Mind, a youth-led social enterprise that co-produces psycho-educational content with and for young people. The Connecting Minds programme took States of Mind’sproven youth-led approach from schools and applied its positive ethos into a Foyer environment to produce a delivery model that can support more young people through and beyond the pandemic period. The Connecting Mindsprogramme was delivered through a partnership between States of Mind and InspireChilli, with funding from the National Lottery Community Fund and wider backing from The Foyer Federation.  

Connecting Minds responded to overwhelming evidence on the challenges faced by young people to develop healthy mental wellbeing. The Children’s Society 2020 ‘Reaching out’ report recommended that young people should be equipped with the skills they need to understand, talk about and manage challenging feelings; and that the teaching of these skills that support good mental health should be embedded into young person focused services. States of Mind’s psycho-educational approach offers a way for the supported housing sector to achieve this. Current methods of working with young people to resolve mental health challenges are too often limited by staff managing large caseloads and many young people experiencing long waiting times to access specialist support. On average, 25% of young people are turned away from mental health services each year; yet the Foyer Federation reported in 2020 that over 40% of young people in Foyers have a mental health need. In the Foyer Federation’s 2021 ‘Big Questions’ survey of 124 young people in Foyers, 80% of young people identified mental health as the biggest challenge facing them today.

Connecting Minds gives supported housing projects a more sustainable way to adapt to young people’s mental health challenges, both in the COVID-19 period and beyond. It provides a youth-led solution that places young people at the centre of problem solving in mental health, replacing the negative narrative of wellbeing disorders with more helpful insights into the causes of distress. It draws from psychosocial and trauma-informed practice to offer a sustainable model that supports young people to lead their own health initiatives through local projects and peer-to-peer and practitioner conversations. Its learning curriculum covers a range of wellbeing topics including Identity and Self Awareness; Body, Feelings and Mind; Relationships; Anxiety; Depression and Low mood; Working in a Trauma Informed Way; The Power Threat Meaning Framework; Stress and behaviour; and Taking Health Action. 

The Connecting Minds programme built from an existing positive evidence base that impacted on 550 young people in 11 school settings. Investment from The National Lottery Community Fund enabled States of Minds, with InspireChilli’s support, to apply this learning to 4 Foyer service sites selected through the Foyer Federation’s accredited network in England. By working closely with 30 young people and 8 practitioners across these Foyers, Connecting Minds developed a practical set of resources, approaches and initial evidence base that can support the youth homelessness sector’s response to young people’s mental health and wellbeing needs in the current and post COVID-19 period. Inspirechilli worked with States of Mind to select and support Foyers, and lead on the final learning report to bring together programme insights.

Given the disruption to face-to-face projects, Connecting Minds focused on producing an immediate online resource guide and support programme that staff and young people could benefit from by December 2020, while gaining accelerated learning from this over January to March 2021 to develop and evidence a more consolidated resource that can help more services to address the ongoing health and wellbeing needs of young people that look set to continue well beyond the pandemic’s current lockdown period. 

The Connecting Minds programme aimed to:

a) Produce an online learning resource and set of supports that responded to immediate needs during the COVID-19 period as identified by young people;

b) Support Foyer staff and young people to utilise this resource, while learning from both their needs and positive achievements to develop the resource further;

c) Produce a fuller learning resource flexible enough to support services in the post COVID-19 period, together with an evaluation report to promote the potential of Connecting Minds as an approach in the Foyer network and youth housing sector based on its ability to provide immediate support to COVID-19 impacts on mental health. 

As part of the background context to the programme, it is worth detailing how COVID-19 impacted on Connecting Minds

Colin Falconer, Director of InspireChilli, lost his normal workspace location at Bootstrap Charity following the decision of the landlord to cease providing office space, while Bea Herbert, Director of States of Mind, was infected with COVID-19 for a short period over December.  More significantly, lockdown measures intensified pressures on staff and young people in the Foyers, impacting on how staff could provide support to engage young people, and limiting some of the ways in which young people could identify and take action to deliver wellbeing projects.  

However, the careful design of the programme took into account the majority of these COVID limitations through the use of online resources and support workshops. The nature of the Connecting Minds programme proved to offer a greater benefit to services during the pandemic period, giving Foyers a positive focus and access to practical tools to respond to immediate mental wellbeing challenges. Staff noted that mood levels had started to decline in lockdown over winter, which the resources and conversations promoted through Connecting Minds proved able to remedy. 

Limitations posed by the pandemic were, in some ways, offset by the increased focus that this context provided for using Connecting Minds as a positive approach.  Similarly, increased negative pressures on young people’s wellbeing were directly addressed by the programme’s practical resources.  This is fully reflected in the 93% of young people who identified that Connecting Minds had a positive impact on their wellbeing over the COVID-19 period. However, there is no reason to suggest that the content and use of Connecting Minds was dependent for impact on the pandemic. COVID-19 has undoubtedly increased attention on mental wellbeing, but it has merely highlighted existing needs that have been evident for some time, as demonstrated in previous Foyer Federation health programmes such as ‘Healthy Conversations’ (2013-15) and ‘Healthy Transitions’ (2007-10).  A young person working with InspireChilli summed it up best: ‘Get real: the rest of the world has finally woken up to what we’ve had to cope with all our lives’.




The Foyer delivery partners

On Route Foyer (CHADD - Churches Housing Association of Dudley and District)

 CHADD ‘On Route’ Foyer offers 35 units of accommodation for 16-25 year olds, dispersed across 3 different housing blocks, along with two additional new schemes offering two bedroomed apartments for young parents, in the Dudley area of West Midlands. Opened in 2010, the Foyer has expanded over time to offer a mix of accommodation options with a centralised office hub. Young people live in a range of single bedrooms with shared facilities, self-contained bed-sit flats or self-contained flats, with access to centralised training and support space. Foyer buildings benefit from attractive garden, community, and training space, within which there are positive environments for both young people and staff. 

According to the latest Foyer Federation data, the Foyer’s community includes: 

22% aged 16-17, 18% aged 18, with 50% aged 19-20 and 10% 21-25.

35% from care and 7% from youth justice backgrounds.

66% with a mental health diagnosis.

Average length stay at the Foyer is 53 weeks.


Swan House and Dove Cott House Foyers (Swan Housing Association)

Swan Housing Association took one place on the project to work across two of their Foyer sites at Swan and Dove Cott house. The two Foyers are purpose-built projects, opened in 2008 (Dove Cott) and 2009 (Swan), within reach of Basildon railway station and town centre.  Swan House offers 17 single flats for 16-25 year olds (in practice, aged from 18), while Dove Cott specialises in accommodation for 24 pregnant young women and single parents, in practice also aged from 18-25 along with the mother’s young children.

According to the latest Foyer Federation data, the Foyer’s community includes: 

22% aged 18, 22% aged 19-20, and 56% aged 21-25 at Swan House; with 25% aged 18, 50% aged 19-20 and 25% aged 21-25 at Dove Cott.

No one from a youth justice background was housed at either Foyer.  While no one was noted in the data from care, 3 of the 5 young people engaged at Swan House in Connecting Minds came from care backgrounds. 55.5% entered with a mental health diagnosis at Swan House, and 50% at Dove Cott.  Average stay is 59 weeks at Swan house and 54.25 at Dove Cott.

Coops, Wigan Foyer (Your Housing Group)

Your Housing Group (YHG) is one of the 10 largest housing providers in the country and offers 4 Foyers within its Young Peoples Services, part of the Support Housing arm of the organisation. The Foyers have often been at the forefront of the Foyer movement.  Coops Foyer forms part of a refurbished historical mill building in the centre of Wigan, providing 24 self-contained flats along with a range of refreshed training and meeting facilities, including an outdoor space. 

According to the latest Foyer Federation data, the Foyer’s community includes: 

61% aged 16-17, 28% aged 18, and 11% aged 19-20. 

28% from care and 22% from youth justice backgrounds, with 11% refugee & asylum seekers.

61% have a diagnosed mental health need. Average length of stay is 53 weeks.

The Foyers were selected based on:

·       Advantaged Thinking ethos and track-record as Foyer Federation accredited services

·       Quality of reflection on wellbeing issues and engagement with associated topics

·       Strength of youth involvement and available resources to run the programme 

·       Commitment to deliver outcomes and requirements within the project timescale

The programme attracted over 50% of the Foyer Federation’s accredited Foyer network to apply, with non-applicants mostly citing pressures from staff shortages in the pandemic as their reason not to pursue an application. There is an evident wider need and interest in the programme, and requests from some services eager to access the learning have been received over the delivery timescale.

The Foyers presented a number of distinguishing characteristics. All the Foyers selected for Connecting Minds had higher than average numbers of young people with a mental health diagnosis – 20% higher at On Route Foyer. Dove Cott only housed young mums. Coops had higher than average numbers of 16-17 year-olds. On Route had higher than average numbers from care backgrounds. As with all Foyers, the young people had previously experienced homelessness. 

Foyers were required to:

1) Engage 10 young people and 2 staff in the programme; 

2) Support young people to spend personal budgets on items to help their wellbeing; 

3) Provide feedback from young people and staff using the Connecting Minds resource; 

4) Establish a health activity project in the Foyer chosen by young people 

5) Share learning insights to contribute to the final learning report


Overall, the Connecting Minds programme worked on a 1-1 basis with a total of 30 young people, with a further 40 young people engaged through conversations on the health activity projects. 20 staff participated in the programme across the 4 Foyer sites, with 6 active staff leads.  While the programme set out to focus on 30 young people and 6 staff, the total beneficiary number was 90.

The Foyers benefited from:

·       Monthly training workshops, which included space to reflect, share practice, learn from resource activities and gain inspiration from a previous States of Mind participant

·       Tools to capture impact and monitor programme expenditure

·       Resources including two PDF guides and an online course for young people and staff

·       Personal budgets of £750 per Foyer to support 10 young people each

·       A budget each of £875 for a health activity project

Foyers only had four months to deliver the programme, with the initial 2 months of the project over October and November spent on resource development, programme set up and Foyer recruitment.  The timescale required significant commitment and focus from Foyer staff to the aims of the programme, which the monthly online workshops helped to support and sustain.




Health Projects 

As part of Connecting Minds, Foyers were supported to work with young people to identify and develop a health activity project to impact on health and wellbeing outcomes.

Projects chosen by young people focused on creating spaces to invest in their health through activities associated primarily with mental wellbeing, physical activity, social connection and building confidence.  The health projects chosen were: 

·       Community gardens at Swan House and Dove Cott Foyers

·       An on-site gym at Coops

·       ‘Chill out’ communal meeting space at On Route Foyer. 

All three projects will bring sustainable benefits to their Foyers, providing longer lasting impact beyond the initial Connecting Minds cohort.  Young people and staff have worked together to identify and purchase equipment to deliver the projects, but final completion of these activities will take place beyond the funding timescale due to the current limitations from lockdown. Due to this, the impacts of the health projects are described in terms of the potential identified by young people and staff.

How young people chose the health projects

At On Route Foyer, nominations for ideas were submitted by the 10 person ‘youth influencer’ group, having discussed with other young people in the Foyer. ‘The influencer group … selected their favourite project from those available, having looked at the long term benefits of each project and the inclusion of all young people living at the Foyer’.

At the Swan Foyers, the decision for a garden also came from discussion with their influencer group.  There was ‘a general consensus that they wanted something that was sustainable and would support all residents within their Foyers. In particular, residents felt that something outdoors would be beneficial considering that internal spaces have not been available due to COVID restrictions. Residents decided on what they would like to grow and added aspects such as photography/sport to expand the offer to everyone’. 

At Coops, requests for a gym had previously been identified by young people through various feedback sources over the last 12 months.  This was discussed further with the Connecting Minds influencer group and in 1-1 sessions, with a gym proving the most popular choice.

It was interesting to note that young people were keen to identify projects with a longer lasting impact that could benefit others at their service.  One staff member noted that young people’s ‘greater awareness of their emotional wellbeing’ from the resources had helped them to identify a project that would support them best. This is a good indicator of how the discrete Connecting Minds programme elements effectively support each other.

How young people are involved in the health projects

At On Route Foyer, young people selected items they want to see in the chill out spaces. They will be further involved in redecorating the rooms. Staff note that the Connecting Minds ‘influencer’ group ‘have proven themselves very adept in …. [decision making] so we are hoping to engage them in other projects going forward’. Importantlythe service will give young people full leadership over use of the rooms.


At the Swan Foyers, young people will take the lead when starting the practical aspects of the gardening project and will evidence this through a range of activities. They have chosen things that will be grown in the garden initially, and identified social items to include such as a communal water feature.

At Coops, young people have provided information on what gym machines they like to use, have helped research equipment that is appropriate and contributed to a basic ‘mood board’ of the type of things they would like. ‘Young people will also be responsible for producing information that will be displayed in the gym on exercise, use of equipment and healthy living’.

The impact of the health projects when completed

At On Route Foyer, the spaces will contribute to the service’s Psychologically Informed Environment. The focus on a communal space connects with young people’s wish to relax with each other. Longer term impacts are likely to support ‘friendship bonds, reduce isolation, reduce stress and anxiety and promote wellbeing’.  Giving young people leadership over the rooms will also further invest in their sense of agency.

At the Swan Foyers, it was felt that the communal gardens would offer multiple impacts, including enabling young people to relax, grow produce linked with healthy lifestyle choices, teach others, find an alternative hobby, develop leadership skills, and provide a learning experience to support independence. The project would offer ‘shared learning experiences with peers and children; a focus for individuals and the group away from their “normal” day to day [with] an increase in peer support and a benefit to emotional wellbeing’.

At Coops, having gym equipment on site was identified to be beneficial for young people by ‘enabling them to develop confidence in using gyms and encouraging good habits that they can take with them when they move on into independent living in the community’. The Foyer noted two insights to evidence the potential significance of this impact:

·       Young people showed that they have ambitions to improve their physical health in Connecting Minds but are anxious about attending traditional gyms with the general public

·       Young people reported that participating in physical activity frequently had a positive impact on their mental wellbeing but they would prefer actual equipment to help them do this

The Foyer’s decision to integrate information on use of the gym as part of the service’s informal learning programme will help to strengthen this impact further.




The Learning Resources 

One of the delivery aims of the programme was to capture feedback insights to enhance the learning resources available from States of Minds, in particular supporting their wider application in supported housing settings.  A number of recommendations were identified and acted on to produce a final set of programme resources, as noted below:

1)   Language barriers

Feedback: For some young people English was not their first language and therefore it took them more time to work through the resources.  

Revisions: The second version of the resources includes audio recordings next to each area of text so that young people can choose to listen to the content if they would prefer. This will also make it more accessible for young people with different levels of reading ability. 

2)   Advanced content 

Feedback: The resources provide a mixture of more basic knowledge and skills building and more complex theory and practice. For some young people and staff who are new to these concepts and practices, it can pose a barrier to learning. 

Revisions: The second version of the resources contains video content from the course facilitators, who will explain the concepts to make the content accessible for a broader range of ages and learning styles.  

3)   Digital Accessibility 

Feedback: The first version of the resources was designed to be accessed through a laptop. We received feedback from staff that many young people preferred to access and use the resources on their phones. 

Revisions: The second version of the resources has been developed into a mobile friendly platform so that all the course content can be accessed easily from any smartphone. 

4)   Meditations 

Feedback: Staff reported that young people particularly enjoyed the meditations included in the resources.  Some young people also requested additional content from the resource to try out.

Revisions: The second version of the resources includes more meditations and guided instructions throughout to aid young people and staff in applying the content to their personal experiences in a therapeutic way. 

5)   Curriculum content

Opportunities for user feedback was incorporated into the design of the resources, so that staff and young people could submit their views and experiences throughout each learning module. We asked young people and staff for their views on what else they would like the resources to include and the parts they found most beneficial. The different topic areas that participants suggested have been incorporated into the final version of the resource as an updated and expanded curriculum. The final curriculum is detailed below, with a total of thirty one new items added from feedback identified in italics, the majority of which were in response to the topic area of Depression.

Body, Feelings, Mind 




Physical tension and the mind 

Body Scan 

Body History 

The Vagus nerve 

Breathing and Physical wellbeing 

Movement and the mind 

Touch and the nervous system  


Feelings and Emotions  

Emotional Intelligence 

Emotional regulation 

Defences against emotion 

The inner child: responding to emotional states with compassion 


The Mind 


The nature of the mind 

Observing the Mind 


Thinking Patterns 

The Default Mode network and Task Positive Network 


Mindful Drawing 


Identity and Personality 


Self awareness and Integration 

Self awareness and Identity 

The benefits of self awareness 

Johari Window 


Personal Identity 


Life Events and Personal History 

Social identity 

Authenticity and Mental health 

Sub Personalities 

The Subconscious 


Family and Relationships 


Needs in relationships 



Internalising Parental care 

Attachment styles 

Family environment and attachment styles 

Reparenting our emotional needs 

Mindsets about relationships 

Family and the Ideal Self 

External Unifying Centres 



Empathy and Compassion 

Misunderstanding in relationships 


Black and white thinking 





The experience of depression 

Social Isolation and Loneliness 

Social Withdrawal 

Fatigue, mental and physical exhaustion

Inability to concentrate, make decisions and think clearly

Loss of interest, meaning and hope in life

The biomedical model

The chemical imbalance theory of depression

Psychosocial Model

Dissatisfaction in relationships

Lack of supportive relationships

Maladaptive coping mechanisms 

Life events

Pursuing unrealistic goals

Self-focus and self-blame 

Lack of control 

Social reinforcement

Trauma and depression 

Managing periods of depression 

Neuroplasticity and Psychotherapy 

Different types of therapy for depression 

Social support 

Unconditional positive regard 




Mindfulness and Depression 

Behavioural activation 


Anxiety and Personal Growth 


Anxiety and fear 

Types of Anxiety: State and Trait 

Anxiety and the Body 

The fight or flight response 

Types of Anxiety 

Anxiety and the Mind 


Anxious thought patterns 

Anxiety and emotion 

Anxiety and Limiting beliefs 

The effects of anxiety 

Society and Anxiety 

Anxiety and Unmet needs 

Calming anxiety 

Emotional regulation 



Acceptance and Self Compassion 



Anxiety and Sub Personalities 



Programme Impacts

Five impact themes were identified:

1)   1) Going Beyond Diagnosis: achieving a more person-centred approach to wellbeing

Foyer staff reported that many young people struggle with their relationship to mental health services and often become identified with the diagnostic labels they receive. By providing young people with a holistic approach to wellbeing, both young people and foyer staff were able to understand wellbeing from a less medicalised and more individualised perspective.  Staff felt encouraged to promote the opportunity for people to take greater responsibility for their mental health, using practical tools from the resources provided to support this. The programme gave young people something positive to turn to that either filled a gap before accessing a service or prevented them from needing a service at all.

2)   2) Enhanced communication with practitioners 

An important outcome of Connecting Minds was a positive shift in the working relationship between young people and practitioners. Young people were able to use the learning and skills that they developed through the resources to guide both staff and in some cases mental health practitioners to focus on particular areas of need. In this way, young people became the experts of their experience and were able to express their needs in a more active way, enhancing the therapeutic work possible between young person and practitioner. Coops Foyer successfully involved Connecting Minds as part a young person’s relationship with a professional mental health service, encouraging the young person and practitioner to identify resource activities as part of their pathway plan.  Foyers reported that the resources gave staff more positive tools to use in their 1-1 support work with young people, something that will leave a lasting legacy from the programme.

3)   3) Empowering young people to identify their own health and wellbeing needs. 

A key aspect of Connecting Minds was providing Foyer staff and young people with access to therapeutic resources that could enable a more personalised and everyday approach to meeting young people’s wellbeing needs. Having access to these resources promoted everyday conversations between young people and Foyer staff to explore concepts and approaches that are usually reserved for clinical settings. This helped both staff and young people to increase their self-awareness and improve their personal wellbeing tools in the absence of a mental health practitioner.  The collaborative approach reduces the traditional power imbalance that can exist between young people as ‘patients’ and mental health practitioners as ‘experts’. In Connecting Minds, Foyer staff and young people learned alongside each other and worked collaboratively to enhance their knowledge and skills. Mental wellbeing became a topic that did not need to be reserved for a clinical setting but something that could be facilitated over time to increase young people’s confidence and self-esteem. 


4)   4) Using personal budgets to advance positive health choices

An important design feature to achieve the impact on empowering young people to identify their health and wellbeing needs was the association made between cash investment in young people, self-directed action to purchase items for personal health goals, and access to the learning resource to support understanding and choices.  

The small funding provided, which ranged from £50 to £100 per person, should not be mistaken as simply an engagement tool. The money was not about incentivising young people; it was about enabling them to make their own choices.  These were young people who were not used to accessing disposable income to spend on themselves. The budgets offered powerful ways to help young people begin to take control of their health challenges by identifying things they could act on to alleviate a health issue or promote positive health behaviours.  Because it is unusual for young people to have this type of opportunity, it took more time and support than initially expected to encourage young people to take up the money available.  Young people’s decisions were often made in conversation with staff, creating a positive focus to reflect on health action and personal progress.

The choices made by young people provide a rich source of learning in terms of their diversity and correlation with health impacts.  The range of expenditure items reflects a common staff observation that ‘everyone has different issues with their mental health’.  76% of expenditure choices were matched with a strong rationale for health impact.  As one of the Foyers noted, ‘The ability of young people to identify their own way of improving their mental health and wellbeing is key to them having a greater understanding of themselves and how they feel’. The personal budgets proved to be a brilliant way of achieving this along with the information and support from the programme learning resources and from staff.

5)   5) Personal Impact Examples from young people 

The young people who volunteered for the project included 9 males and 21 females, aged between 17 and 22.  70% chose items directly linked to mental wellbeing goals, with 16% associated with physical health and activity, and 14% healthy eating.  While young people recognised healthy eating and physical activity as ways to benefit their mental health, the majority preferred to invest in items with a more immediate impact on their sense of wellbeing and mood.

Items covered 13 different expenditure topics, with percentage choices noted below:

1.     Sensory/relaxation items - 26%

2.     Journal/stationary items - 10%

3.     Cooking & food items - 10%

4.     Physical activity items - 10% 

5.     Household items - 8%

6.     Games items - 8%

7.     Art equipment - 8%

8.     Books - 6%

9.     Make up - 4%

10.  Music items - 4%

11.  Learning item - 2%

12.  Computer equipment - 2%

13.  Smoking cessation - 2%

Young people identified 5 distinct personal impact themes when describing their intention behind purchase choices, as detailed in the diagram below:


Impact statements from young people and staff offer powerful descriptors to detail the significance of these themes on young people’s lives.

Focusing on one’s self

·       My Art equipment will really help my mental health because I will be doing something for me’

·       Through Connecting Minds [she] was able to focus on herself and her personal likes and desires…’ 

·       The ring light has helped me to practice my "self tapes" for acting which builds up my confidence and has given me a focus.

·       ‘Cooking items have helped him prepare healthy meals and improved his self-esteem’.

·        ‘These items [make up] make me feel more confident in myself when I go out’

·       ‘I use painting to explore my feelings’

Doing something positive

·       She has said it [the books] helps her focus on something else other than her problems’

·       ‘Now I've got the equipment I can … Go to places to relieve my depression and get out and do what I need’

·       ‘Because they are time consuming it will keep me busy and my mind occupied for a long time and help me de-stress’

·       I enjoy music, it takes my mind off things’

·       The item [vacuum cleaner] has helped me to clean my flat better and this makes me feel much better’

·       ‘[Arts & craft items] gives her a focus when she is feeling low in mood’

·       ‘[Gym equipment is] giving her a reason to get up and be ready for her day’

·       ‘He has stopped smoking and started using the on-site gym’ 

·       It helps me feel good when I exercise’

·       ‘[The new throw] helps me to be positive’.


Releasing stress and anxiety

·       ‘Connecting Minds helped her identify how she prefers to de stress. By releasing pressure this way she can take on the world.’  

·        ‘The items have helped me because when I feel scared or anxious I sit in my "safe space" and it feels like a bubble of calm’

·       ‘The most beneficial thing is that I have able to use my yoga mat to find my inner peace, relax and self-reflect.’

·       ‘[A blanket] helped with my anxiety and improved my sleep as it allows me to relax’.

·       He feels better using the resistance bands when his mental health is low or he feels frustrated’

·       She suffers with anxiety and feels this [a microwavable wheat bag] has helped her greatly at night when she feels anxious.’

·       Music helps him massively to feel better and to express his emotions

·       ‘I can now have photos of family members around me. This helps me feel safe, loved and less anxious’ Staff note that this ‘Has made a big difference to mood and how he feels in the flat

·       ‘I take great pride in keeping my flat clean and tidy. Being unable to do so causes me emotional distress’

·       ‘I find these lights decrease stress’

·       ‘Colour changing lights help with my mood’

·       ‘[Art materials] helps me stay motivated and positive about my art course. Which in turn makes eases my depression’ Staff note that ‘motivation for college has improved greatly’

·       ‘I produce music to help ease my anxiety and depression’

·       ‘Reading helps me relax’

·       ‘Adult colouring books helps calm me down when I am stressed’

·       ‘The [fairy] lights help chill me out’


Feeling more connected with others

·       ‘Connecting Minds has encouraged [her] to become a valued part of the [Foyer] community’.

·       ‘Being able to communicate with others through online gaming makes him feel less lonely and isolated in the foyer’.

·       ‘Playing games has helped her mental health as she is not used to spending time by herself’

·       ‘Playing games improved her relationships within the foyer, with staff and with her partners family’


Managing and reflecting on personal health

·       ‘[A journal planner] will massively improve her mental health and money management’

·       ‘[Scales] - have helped her follow her health plan’

·       ‘[A journal]- has helped her reflect on her journey so far’

·       ‘[A health App] has helped me with managing my stress and processing my thoughts’

·       ‘To write down what goes through my head [in a journal]. I’ve found it helps to get it out’


Performance statistics and feedback

Quantitative impact details

Young people were asked to report back on Connecting Minds through a survey that used Likert Scales to assess overall impact. Together with further details on young people’s expenditure choices and goals, this produced the following evidence of impact:

1)     Connecting Minds enabled 30 young people to invest in 50 health and wellbeing goals, 76% of which had a discernible positive health impact.


2)     Connecting Minds increased Foyers’ average impact on health and wellbeing outcomes by 20% in comparison with Foyer Federation accreditation data.


3)     Young people prioritised investment in mental wellbeing outcomes, with 70% of goals set in this area, compared with 16% in physical health and 14% in healthy eating. The most popular choices were for sensory/relaxation items which accounted for 26% of purchases.  This demonstrates young people’s interest in and ability to impact on mental wellbeing as a primary health focus. 


4)     Some outcome goals were linked with access to education courses, social connection, and tenancy skills such as budgeting and cleaning, suggesting that a focus on health and wellbeing may also benefit Advantaged Thinking ‘theory of change’ performance areas in education, social skills and housing move on.


5)     39% of young people wanted to relieve stress and anxiety; 24% wanted to do something positive; 15% wanted to invest in themselves; 12% wanted to better manage or reflect on their health choices; and 10% wanted to feel more connected with others. These reflect the diverse range of health pressures experienced by young people during the pandemic, for which the highly personalised responses allowed through the budget choices could benefit.


6)     97% of young people would recommend Connecting Minds to others


7)     97% of young people felt their personal budgets helped them to identify and progress wellbeing goals


8)     93% of young people believed Connecting Minds had a positive impact on their wellbeing


9)     90% of young people felt the online learning resources supported them to understand mental wellbeing 


10)  90% of young people believed their health project will make a positive impact on the Foyer


11)  87% of young people felt the learning resources had a positive impact on their mood and ability to manage personal health challenges


12)  80% of young people were able to compare Connecting Minds more favourably against other mental wellbeing approaches. Not all young people had a previous experience of a service to compare against, which is reflected in the lower score.


The consistently high scores for the different aspects of the Connecting Minds programme, including both the personal budgets, learning resource and health action project, suggest that these features produce a combined impact. Direct participant feedback further supports the insight, with young people at one Foyer agreeing that‘Connecting Minds gave them something to focus on, to learn how to recognise and manage their own mental wellbeing and try other means and new resources before accessing services’. The learning resources, budgets and activity complement each other well.

Qualitative impact details

Young People and staff also provided additional personal feedback on impact by completing programme surveys. There were three dominant themes in responses to questions on what the impact of Connecting Minds meant to young people: 


1)     ‘The young people involved agreed that Connecting Minds gave them something to focus on, to learn how to recognise and manage their own mental wellbeing and try other means and new resources before accessing services’ 

·       ‘breaks down mental health and wellbeing and makes it about you’

·       ‘Having the tools accessible to them and actually learning how to manage their own mental health was … one of the most beneficial things’

·       ‘Having resources at hand to help myself first’

·       ‘A great help to those who don’t have access to resources or therapy’

·       ‘Gives you the chance to understand and help things’

·       ‘It offers a more bespoke way for people to deal with mental health issues’

·       ‘Reaching out to other sources to support my wellbeing’

·       ‘Help understanding wellbeing’

·       ‘Having a budget to help purchase items to improve overall wellbeing’


2)     ‘It gives you the chance to express your emotions’

·       ‘Helped me to express my feelings’

·       ‘Talking and being open with others’

·       ‘Being listened to’ 

·       ‘Helped me get motivation’


3)     ‘Learning how to relax and calm down’

·       ‘Allowed me to relax and self-reflect as I was struggling’

·       ‘Learning about anxiety’


Conclusion and Recommendations 

There is compelling evidence that Connecting Minds produces a positive impact on young people’s mental wellbeing, increases a sustainable focus on healthy lifestyles in Foyers, and supports staff to better assist young people’s progress by taking action on health and wellbeing.

Connecting Minds has proved to be a strong example of an Advantaged Thinking investment that gives young people greater power over their lives.  With the right resources, young people demonstrate that they can take increased control of their mental wellbeing.

Adoption of the Connecting Minds approach could bring substantial benefits to services working with young people in supported housing settings such as Foyers, both for health and wellbeing but also other outcomes areas such as education, social skills and move on.

The non-pathologising, youth led nature of the Connecting Minds approach is beneficial to young people, staff and mental health practitioners alike. The programme has enabled young people to guide support conversations in a more active way, empowering them to make positive changes.  This has not only improved the quality of life for young people during the COVID-19 period but will likely have longer term impacts on their mental wellbeing.

The services chosen in the programme were all Foyer Federation Accredited and therefore brought a reliable level of quality in their approach to supporting young people. Work with services that are not Accredited will test the capacity of Connecting Minds resources to impact on health and wellbeing outcomes without a stronger Advantaged Thinking ethos in place. However, additional training options for staff during the programme would be able to compensate for any skill gaps. 

The overall evidence clearly shows that even in quality assured Advantaged Thinking services, Connecting Mindswill significantly increase performance outcomes in health and wellbeing. The programme has proven itself to be fit for purpose, ready to be replicated in the Foyer and wider supported housing network both through and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

Final Recommendations


1.     Equip young people in mental health programmes with access to learning knowledge and self-directed tools so they can make their own decisions in response to or to prevent mental health challenges.


2.     Trust in young people’s ability to make positive health choices to invest in themselves when given access to funds to purchase items linked to personal goals.


3.     Promote direct funding for young people as an enabler for social equality so young people can access positive opportunities to invest in personal growth and healthy lifestyle choices.


4.     Invest in opportunities for young people and staff to share learning experiences in mental health awareness as a positive way to encourage and support personal progress. 


5.     Link mental health skills training with personal budgets and social action projects as a means to encourage sustainable outcomes and promote strong youth participation.


6.     Give further consideration to tackle the low levels of IT provision for young people in supported housing, which limits equal access to digital support opportunities. 


7.     Invest in supported housing services such as Accredited Foyers as positive environments to address health inequalities among young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. 



1.     Seek £125,000 in future funding for the 2,500 young people using Foyers each year to access personal budgets of at least £50 to invest in positive health goals, or influence housing associations to pledge an equitable investment for young people in their own services.


2.     Make an explicit link to health and wellbeing in current and future programme initiatives such as the ‘Hear Me Out’ talent bond scheme and the ‘Pass it On’ skills sharing platform, to help young people use these to positively invest in healthy lifestyle choices without fear of stigma.


3.     Continue to promote additional staff training for all 1-1 support staff in mental health awareness, setting a mandatory requirement for Foyers to achieve Accreditation.


4.     Promote opportunities where mental wellbeing training can be accessed by cohorts of staff and young people together to maximise gains from a shared learning experience.


5.     Promote a focus on mental wellbeing as a key driver for the Advantaged Thinking campaign, to advance positive investment in, understanding and involvement of young people. 


6.     Continue to campaign for improved access to wifi and computer equipment to help young people benefit from digital support opportunities in health and wellbeing. 



For further information on Foyers and the work of the Foyer Federation: /


For further information on the work of InspireChilli: /


For further information on the work of States of Mind: /


To register interest in the Connecting Minds programme, please contact: &






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