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Football for mental health

Minds United started with seven people, some balls and a whistle. Now they're playing in European mental health tournaments and helping Hammersmith people turn their lives around.

CEO Tarik Kaidi shares the Minds United journey:   

“I’m not going to lie: when I was sectioned 10 years ago, it was a bit mad. I’d never had a mental health problem before. It just came out of nowhere. I didn’t have a good experience in the hospital, and became homeless after I was discharged. I eventually found a home in north Hammersmith in 2016.

Playing football really helped my recovery; I also took my FA Level 1 coaching course, funded by Fulham FC Foundation. There’s just something about playing the beautiful game in your own community. It’s a great way to socialise, it releases endorphins and makes you feel good – and playing as a team builds all sorts of other skills too.

I just couldn’t get this vision out of my mind. I wanted to start a football club to improve mental health. I didn’t have any funding – just a big dream and a big idea.

So in 2019 I started a Saturday club for people recovering from substance abuse, seven people to start with. And just me, with a bag of footballs, bibs, cones and a whistle. It was a hard surface pitch in North Kensington. Pretty brutal if you slipped and fell.

Small steps

Then we got our first grant: £300 from the London Football Association. That helped us set up our first mental health ‘turn up and play’ sessions. These casual, small-sided games are all about lots of touches on the ball and plenty of exercise. They’re also a great opportunity for people to socialise and share experiences about mental health.

When we first entered the mental health league, we got absolutely battered. But we got more funding near the end of 2019 which was a real turning point: we got a minibus so I could drive the team to league fixtures. That meant more players, and then we started winning! We were invited to other leagues, and became a Football Association accredited club.

A big opportunity came when I had the chance to bid for funding from the Grenfell Projects Fund. I’d expected that it would be done online, but at the last minute I had to go in and speak in front of 150 people. I wasn’t feeling confident at all. There was me – big beard, a cast on my arm, hat on, bad hair… But I went in there and did it. And I got the highest vote!

That was a real dream fulfilled. We were finally able to play on a nice astroturf pitch with padding, so we could tackle properly and our goalies could dive without too much damage. It was a bit more central so people started noticing us as they walked past and would come and join us.

Kicking off for community 

After that we set up as a community interest company, and it became about much more than football.

Our community football programme is now going from strength to strength – our mental health ‘turn up and play’ football sessions are now available for young people, men, women and mixed. We also have small-sided teams in mental health and community leagues.

One of our team, Joseph, is a chef, and after our Wednesday sessions he cooks Caribbean food which everyone enjoys: he does lovely meals and buss up shut (Trinidadian rotis). Joseph also provided the catering at our 4th annual awards ceremony last month.

We’ve also started helping people access Football Association qualifications in refereeing, coaching, safeguarding and first aid, which broadens employment opportunities.

We also now have a clubhouse which is open throughout the week: people can come to just chat, colour, play pool, Xbox, whatever. It’s a safe place where people can express themselves and feel they belong, whatever they’re into – no pressure.

We recently received a donation from the Stewart family along with a grant from Hammersmith United Charities. This has had a great impact because it’s allowed us to employ two women from north Hammersmith who were previously in volunteer positions. They run the women’s only football session, and also the tea and chat session in the clubhouse each week where people can get together.

One of these people, Myra, joined Minds United a few years ago. She was drinking really heavily at the time. She was very nervous coming along, but she had a go at goalkeeping. She said that she loved everyone instantly, and felt supported to get out of the rut of drinking – she says that being part of the club has changed her life. Being on hand to share her experiences has also helped other people going through the same thing.

A big moment for me was going back to the hospital years after I was sectioned there. It felt strange. But this time I was there to offer them a free service to help in-patients join the Minds United community. So now, people who have been sectioned are allowed to come along on escorted leave with a nurse and play football with us. I think it speeds up their recovery. It’s something I would have loved at the time: there are so many other forms of therapy, apart from medicine.

What we’ve found is that, so far, anyone who’s regularly engaged with Minds United has never been sectioned again.

And me? Running this organisation, as stressful as it can be at times: it gives me real focus and purpose. And we’ve come so far! Now we go to Italy every year to play in the mental health football tournament. We’ve won it the last two years. Little old Minds United!” 

Find out more 
  • Minds United have been supported by a donation from the Stewart family and a grant from Hammersmith United Charities. Find out more here: ‘Lasting legacy for John’
  • If you’re experiencing mental health issues and would enjoy a cup of tea and a chat, play pool table, table tennis or other games, you can drop in to the Minds United Clubhouse between 12-3pm Monday to Thursday (opposite Tesco West Kensington). Find out more about the Clubhouse here
  • Minds United is looking for volunteers to join their free FA coaching course: for more information contact info@mindsunitedfc.com
  • Find out more about Hammersmith United Charities’s grants programme. Our next grant application deadline is 18 January 2024.


Image of football team in front of goal
One of Minds United’s teams

Opening our doors to older people in need of a home

We're inviting older people on a low income who need an affordable new home to tour our almshouses.

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We’re looking for a new Grants and Communication Officer

We have a terrific opportunity for someone at the early stages of, or looking to begin, their career in grant making. Find out more about our Grants and Communication Officer role here.

Location Based at Sycamore House (W6 0AS) with frequent visits to other HUC locations and grant holders (all in Hammersmith)
Salary: £28k – £34.5k (pro rata) depending on experience
Contract: 22.5 hours per week (3 days), Permanent
Reporting to: Head of Grants and Community
Benefits: 28 days annual leave plus bank holidays (pro-rata), Up to 8% employer contribution to pension, Health cash plan on completion of probation

The opportunity

This is a terrific opportunity for someone at the early stages of, or looking to begin, their career in grant making.

Key activities involve supporting the management of the grants programme, contributing to raising the profile of the organisation and the impact of our grant holders, and
maintaining the grants database.

Hammersmith United Charities is part of our community, and it is important that the Grants and Community team are in touch with what is happening in Hammersmith and the rest of our small team. This involves frequent visits to grant holders, partners or networking meetings as well as hands on involvement with the life of the Almshouses.

About you

We are seeking an individual who is passionate about community, loves working with people, is flexible and thrives in a changing environment, genuinely enjoys administration and takes pride in excellent attention to detail.

We particularly welcome applications from people with a strong connection to Hammersmith and Fulham.

Purpose of the role

To provide support to all aspects of the Charity’s grants and community work including:

  • Grants administration
  • Database, website and social media management
  • Supporting prospective and current grant holders
  • Helping promote the work of the Charity and that of our grant holders

Download the detailed Job Description here

Application process

We are committed to our team reflecting the diversity of the communities we work with and welcome applications from people of all ages, sexual orientations, genders,
ethnicities, nationalities, religions and beliefs.

If you are excited by the role but aren’t sure if you have the right experience then we’d still love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact Paul, our Head of Grants and Community, for an informal chat by emailing paul.robson@hamunitedcharities.com to arrange a call.

To apply, please send us written answers to the following questions using a maximum of 600 words in total OR answer the questions in a video of up to 5 minutes.

  1. Tell us why you want this job and why you want to work for Hammersmith United Charities
  2. Tell us about your skills and experience and how they are a good fit for the role

Please email your written answers or video to officeadmin@hamunitedcharities.com no later than midday on Tuesday 21 November 2023, shortlisting will take place that week.

First round interviews will be held online on 29th or 30th November

Second round interviews will be in person at Sycamore House, W6 0AS on Wednesday 6th or Thursday7 th December. A presentation may be required at final interview.

These dates may be subject to change and applicants will be advised in advance should this happen.

To be appointed to this role you must be eligible to work in the UK, undertake an enhanced DBS check and provide satisfactory references. We will follow up on this later in the process.

By submitting your application, you are consenting to the processing and storage of your personal data in order that you can progress through our recruitment and management process. We will never sell your data however we are obliged by law to inform you that should we be required to we may share your data with external agencies. This may include but is not limited to CareCheck (a service for managing and processing Disclosure & Barring Service clearance applications) and our HR Advisors. We will also contact those individuals you name as your referees to confirm your suitability for the role you are applying for. Your data will only be used for your role and to comply with our statutory and legal obligations. If your application is unsuccessful, we will retain your information for 6 months; after this date it will be safely destroyed. If your application is successful, we will retain your information for the duration of your commitment and up to 6 years after you cease employment.

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In pictures: out and about

Our team took part in the Wormholt & White City Community Festival in September, which celebrated our vibrant community.

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5 minutes with…Our community gardeners

Meet our community gardeners, India and Lucy, who nurture the award-winning green spaces at our almshouses.

What do you both do and why do you enjoy it?

We are the community gardeners for Hammersmith United Charities’ two sheltered housing schemes (almshouses), John Betts House and Sycamore House.

The gardens are an unexpected highlight at both almshouses. Visitor, residents and staff alike often comment on the beautiful surprise of the gardens as they discover them for the first time.

We manage, maintain and improve the gardens while also providing activities and workshops for residents. A big part of our role is to encourage the residents to use the gardens, and advise and support them with their own plots and pots displays.

At both the almshouses, we love the diversity of personalities, activities and events – and how each day is different from the last. The kindness of the residents to the staff and each other is a daily joy.

How would you describe the gardens?

The gardens provide a space for all residents to enjoy in a variety of ways. Groups of residents meet in the gardens for a chat and a cup of tea, others sit alone and immerse themselves in the sounds and sights of nature, or simply read a paper or have a chat on the phone.  Some residents get their daily exercise by doing laps of the gardens, while many residents have their own small plots and pots, getting involved in the practical nature of gardening, planting, watering and weeding.

Currently residents are preparing for spring by planting bulbs in pots and looking forward to the next growing season following the dark and quiet winter months.

How do the residents help you with the gardens?

We work closely with the residents and many of them assist us in maintaining the gardens by watering and weeding, sweeping paths, leaf clearance and dead heading the beautiful roses.  We appreciate all the work the residents do and could not maintain these award-winning gardens without them.

What are some important gardening jobs you’ll be doing as we head into the autumn and winter?

Seasonal jobs include leaf clearance and ensuring all pathways are safe, bulb planting and compost turning. We manage all our green waste so that it returns to the gardens for the health of the plants and trees. We are currently preparing areas in both gardens to create wildflower meadows for next summer.

What is your favourite local green space to visit and why?

India has recently introduced Lucy to W6 Garden Centre on the edge of Ravenscourt Park.  It is a beautiful oasis of indoor and outdoor plants, garden supplies and has a gorgeous cafe. Many of our residents enjoy it too!

Find out more 


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Almshouse living may boost life expectancy by up to 2.5 years

New research from Bayes Business School has found that many almshouse residents receive a “longevity boost”.

On average, the lower a person’s socioeconomic status, the lower their life expectancy. But new research from Bayes Business School has found that many almshouse residents receive a “longevity boost” compared to their peers of the same socioeconomic status from the wider population.

The new research is based on analysis of many decades of records from 15 English almshouses. The life expectancy of almshouse residents was compared to people of similar gender and socio-economic background from the general population and was generally found to be longer. Giving an example, the authors estimate that a 73-year-old man entering the almshouse with the highest longevity boost in the study today could live 2.4 years longer than his peers from the same socioeconomic group.

Almshouses, which have traditionally provided affordable community housing for older people, are usually designed around a communal courtyard or gardens. Residents live independently and there are plenty of opportunities for social connection and support when needed.

Professor Ben Rickayzen, report co-author and professor of actuarial science at Bayes Business School, said: “More research is needed to ascertain exactly what factors cause almshouse residents to have a longer life. However, we postulate that it is the sense of the community that is the most powerful ingredient.

“For example, a common theme… is that [almshouses] encourage residents to undertake social activities and responsibilities on behalf of their fellow residents. This is likely to increase their sense of belonging and give them a greater sense of purpose in their everyday lives while mitigating against social isolation.”

Hammersmith United Charities Chief Executive, Victoria Hill, said: “It’s great to hear some evidence for what we’ve always felt to be true. Community means different things to different people, but usually it’s more than just the opportunity to socialise and be active. It’s often things like feeling safe and welcome among your neighbours, knowing there’s always someone nearby to help or being able to help others. It doesn’t surprise me that this feeling of belonging in your community may help you live longer and, we hope, happier lives.”

Find out more 
  • The full report: ‘Almshouse Longevity Study: Can Living in an Almshouse Lead to a Longer Life?’
  • Bayes Business School news release with a summary of key findings
  • Find out more about Hammersmith United Charities’s almshouses
  • Find out more about almshouses and their history

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