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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

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

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New Flexible 3 Year Grant holders announced

Find out more about some of our Flexible 3 Year Grant holders

Many of our grant holders are facing the perfect storm of increasing costs coupled with increasing demand. Our new Flexible 3-Year Grants programme was launched in response to feedback from grant holders, who let us know how much they value multi-year funding. The grants will help organisations to meet demand and plan for the future.

Our first funding round closed in December 2023, and we’re delighted to say that Family Friends, The Violence Intervention Project and the Lido Foundation have all been awarded £45,000, which will be split over three years.

Family Friends

We all need someone to turn to when times are tough – someone who will listen without judgement, offer advice and provide emotional support. Family Friends offers all this and more. Its befriending service helps parents to feel more confident, connect with local services and work to build a brighter future for themselves and their children. The charity also offers ‘Big Buddies’ to support children and teenagers with homework, hobbies and goals.

CEO Mel Christodoulou says, “The grant will enable us to employ a dedicated Family Connector focused on Hammersmith and Fulham, responding to a 36% increase in referrals this year. This ‘boots on the ground’ presence will allow us to extend our services and create a sustainable future in Hammersmith and Fulham.”

The Violence Intervention Project (The V.I.P)

When children and teenagers are aggressive, it’s often a sign of childhood trauma, such as abuse, neglect or bereavement.

The V.I.P works with young people to break the cycle of violence. It does this through ‘Urban Therapy’, which combines both therapeutic and practical support, to develop their psychological resilience and improve their socio-economic situations. This holistic approach is key to achieving long-term, sustainable changes within their cohort.

Funding & Operations Manager Jamie Crouch says, “Despite experiencing adversity and disadvantage, our clients have the potential to lead positive and fulfilling lives – and we act as the bridge between their past and their future.”

The V.I.P will use its grant to help establish a new youth committee, engage members of the public and contribute to staffing costs.

The Lido Foundation

Recent years have taken a huge toll on people’s finances, so it’s no surprise that the Lido Foundation experienced a three-fold increase in the number of people needing support last year. CEO Liban Muse says, “We have seen people in desperate situations who had to make difficult decisions to get food on the table for their families or to heat their homes.”

The charity helped 1400 people in 2022-23, many of whom are Black women with limited English and digital skills. The Lido Foundation offers practical support, such as helping people to apply for Universal Credit, negotiate with creditors and avoid homelessness.

HUC’s grant will help the Lido Foundation to cover its core costs, including contributing to the salary of the charity’s welfare adviser.

Find out more about applying for a grant

We will award up to three more Flexible 3 Year Grants in 2024. The exact date for applications is to be announced but is planned for June. This programme focuses on organisations that we already work with.

We also offer Community Grants. There are three opportunities to apply each year. If you’d like to be informed when the next round opens, please sign up to our newsletter.

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November 2023 and February 2024 grantees

£240,000 to 28 community organisations!

Every year, Hammersmith United Charities provides £400,000 to local groups that are creating positive change in our area of benefit. Our most recent grant rounds in November 2023 and February 2024 saw unprecedented demand, with organisations requesting a total of over £640,000. The Committee responded by approving grants to 28 of those groups, ranging from £3,500 to £15,000 and totalling over £240,000.

The organisations receiving funding include Age UK Hammersmith and Fulham, who support 426 people over 50 years old; Bees & Refugees, who work with 100 people in H&F, most of whom are on a low-income; and Hammersmith Community Gardens Association (HCGA), who manage four community gardens in H+F.

How to apply for a HUC Community Grant

We hold three grant rounds each year and are particularly keen to hear from smaller, local organisations with a strong connection to their community and a working knowledge of the local area. Your project can be one-off or ongoing. What interests us most is the difference you’ll make to the local people most in need.

Please complete our Eligibility Quiz before applying, and then contact us at grants@hamunitedcharities.com to tell us about your project. We like to talk to applicants before you apply so that we can get a better understanding of what you’re doing and answer any questions you may have.

Find out more

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CIC workshop success

“How do I convert a CIC to a charity?”, “Which banks accept CICs?”, “How do I employ people at my CIC?” 

These are just some of the questions that came up at the recent workshop we held for the leaders of Community Interest Companies (CICs). Many of the organisations that we work with are Community Interest Companies. Smaller CICs are often run by just one person, who has to manage everything from customer service to admin, accounting and marketing. Not surprisingly, many CIC leaders struggle to keep up with admin and reporting, which makes it difficult to apply for grants and other funding.  

So, when we asked local CICs whether they’d be interested in a workshop to share ideas and experiences, the answer was a resounding “yes”. To help ensure that as many CIC leaders as possible could attend the workshop, we decided to hold it online. We also worked with Dr Edwards & Bishop King’s (DEBK) and Peabody Trust to promote the event to relevant organisations.  

The Directory of Social Change recommended that we ask Leesa Harwood to run the event. Leesa has more than 30 years’ experience in the third sector and now runs her own consultancy company, so was the ideal presenter and facilitator. 

The two-hour workshop proved to be very informative, with plenty of lively discussions and sharing of experiences. 11 people attended. All either run a CIC or are considering setting one up. Conversations included finding directors with the right skills, whether (and how) to change from a CIC to a charity to attract more grant funding, and the challenges of employing people part-time.

Feedback was very positive, with one participant writing, “Thank you for organising today’s workshop. Very helpful and great to connect with other local organisations.” 

At Hammersmith United Charities, we often receive grant applications from community groups that are finding it difficult to keep up with CIC administration or which are struggling to create an appropriate organisational structure. We hope that workshops such as these will support local organisations to share information, access funding and, ultimately, become more sustainable so that they can continue their vital work for many years to come. 

If you’d like to discover more about what was shared at the workshop, you can access the files here. And, if you’re thinking of setting up your own CIC, Social Enterprise UK has lots of useful information and you can also download guides from the government’s website 

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Leslie, Head of Housing

Meet our head of housing

Leslie Morson has been managing housing for over 20 years. He started his career in Hammersmith and has recently returned to the borough as our Head of Housing. Find out about his biggest vice and who he thinks is the best James Bond.

What do you like about Hammersmith?

It’s a really vibrant borough and there’s always a lot going on. I like the mix of communities – I live in Haringey which enjoys the same kind of mix. There’s also a lot of support in the borough for older people which is important.

What does your job involve?

I manage Hammersmith United Charities’ sheltered housing making sure that the buildings are safe and well maintained and also that the residents are being looked after and we can meet their needs. We help them with things such as completing forms and also provide a programme of social activities. We have two sheltered housing schemes just off Goldhawk Road – John Betts House on Rylett Road and Sycamore House on Sycamore Gardens. We are fortunate that we offer large flats decorated to a high standard. What is very special about our housing is the large communal gardens which both our schemes have and these gardens are enjoyed and highly valued by the residents. We are so lucky to have two gardeners who work with the residents to maintain them and keep them looking so beautiful.

You mentioned activities for the residents, what are those?

We have coffee mornings every Thursday. There are also exercise classes and game nights. Local specialists and community groups come in to talk to the residents and there are occasional trips, such as afternoon teas and outings to the seaside. In addition, the residents organise their own social events. For example, at John Betts House the residents arrange a film evening once a week. One of the things that I am looking forward to is to see how we could develop these activities even further. We’re starting to think about what we might do to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in June.

What’s the best thing about the job?

The people. We are a really nice staff team here – almost like a family. I’m starting to get to know the residents and they are great too.

In your free time what do you get up to?

Free time? What is that? I like travelling and I love to get away, even if it is just a short trip at weekends – we were in York the other weekend. My last big trip was going to China and I really like going to the Far East such as to Thailand and Cambodia.

What’s your biggest vice?

I think my wife would tell you it is wasting money, particularly buying electrical things and gadgets that I shouldn’t. I am what’s called an early adopter when it comes to technology and really like my gadgets. Last year I bought a new shower head which has a demister which somehow helps the environment, but I still haven’t installed it after about nine months!

Which do you prefer film or theatre?

That’s difficult. My wife trained as an actress and we often go to the theatre. I’ve been at least three times since the theatres opened up again. However, I do enjoy film as well and pay far too much money for streaming services such as Netflix and Sky. The last thing I saw at the cinema was the latest James Bond movie – I’m a huge James Bond fan. Daniel Craig is without doubt the best Bond we have ever had.

Eat out or take away?

I am a terrible cook, but my wife is an even worse cook than me and she’ll admit to that. I am the one who prepares Christmas dinner. Eat out would be the preference but my wife is a really fussy eater so I enjoy going out for a meal with friends rather than with my wife!

Reading a book or watching the tv?

I’m ashamed to say it but it’s going to have to be TV. I asked for a couple of books for Christmas which I got and I haven’t even picked them up yet. I used to be an avid reader, but I just don’t do it now. One of the books I got for Christmas was Vic Reeve’s autobiography but reading takes concentration and instead you can just stick the TV on and zone out.

Tea or coffee?

I’m not really a big tea or coffee drinker. I never have been. If I was to drink tea, I prefer a Darjeeling with a slice of lemon than a builder’s tea.

If someone is interested in Hammersmith United Charities’ housing, what should they do?

First, check our eligibility criteria. Then just give me a call on 07470 793 565, I would love to show you around.

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