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What is it?

Community Networks for Family Care is a programme delivered by the Wandsworth Community Empowerment Network (WCEN), working in partnership with Wandsworth NHS  clinical commissioning group and South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust.

It is an accredited training programme for faith and community leaders to offer systemic therapy as part of their ministerial and pastoral practice. 


The aim of the programme is to provide early stage support for people experiencing mental health difficulties in BME communities in a culturally appropriate way by drawing on existing strengths and relationships within faith communities.

Living Well system features:



Provide timely access
to support where it is needed 



See people as citizens within communities, rather than ‘patients’ or ‘professionals’

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Work holistically, building up and on people’s strengths



Activate supportive

social networks

How does it work?

The Community Networks for Family Care programme emerged as a partnership between WCEN, the Clinical Commissioning Group and the Mental Health Trust after a number of faith based leaders came together. They were motivated by a shared commitment to improving their own ability to support the mental health of their communities.

1. Delivering accredited training:

  • Pastors and community leaders enrolled in the programme attend regular sessions over a two year period. This is delivered by the NHS Mental Health Trust.

  • Year 1 of training is one evening per week for 26 weeks; year 2 is one day per month for 6 months.

  • The training includes tutorials, assignments, client logs and reflective logs.  

  • The training emphasises a systemic approach to therapy, where mental health issues are understood in terms of the social and political systems surrounding a person, rather than only examining them as an individual.

2. Providing support in the community:

  • Once trained, pastors and community leaders integrate their knowledge as mental health practitioners into their existing roles and provide direct support to people in their community

  • Pastors and community leaders act as bridges between statutory services and BME communities

  • Members of the training groups stay in
    touch and share learning with each other on
    an ongoing basis through a mutual support network for pastors and community leaders

The difference it makes

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Therapeutic skills for faith
and community leaders

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Number of referrals to crisis and acute care

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Access for BME community members to early support for mental health issues

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Stigma and

“We’ve already seen people who have completed the training who have gone out and established their own supervision groups and are already really effectively dealing with the issues in their communities… They have combined family therapy with a spiritual framework to create a new hybrid model.”


- Muslim GP

From the evaluation

The evaluation report of Phase 1 of the
programme (Black Pastor Training) aimed to understand the experience of the pastors who
took part in the training and the perceived
impact of a family therapy framework on the
wider community.


It identified three factors that determined success within the training programme:

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  • Co-production of knowledge
    and shared ownership of the programme


  • Capitalising on existing partnerships (social capital
    within communities)


  • The establishment of safe spaces, such as faith spaces,
    for engagement with mental health related issues

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It was noted that pastors were able to act as important ‘bridges’ between statutory and non-statutory spaces. In this regard, the partnership between WCEN networks and the trainers from the primary Mental Health Trust was crucial. Looking forward, the programme is building a relationship with Wandsworth’s ‘single point of access’ (the gateway for referrals in the borough) and training faith and community leaders in common protocols and criterion so they make supported referrals for community members to access statutory services.


As further practitioners are trained across Family Care Networks, it has been recommended that the impact of the programme on users and communities should be evaluated.

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