SYCF awards MESH £9960 for new mental health pilot programme

MESH Community Cohesion Services has been awarded £9960 by South Yorkshire's Community Foundation as part of the Local Communities Programme, administered on behalf of Comic Relief.

The funding will support a new pilot project, "Socially prescribed alternative dispute resolution for neighbour or family conflict". The pilot is being administered in the city of Sheffield in partnership with Adult Health and Social Care Services and the NHS Clinical Commissioning Group. The project will help residents who are experiencing conflict in their community and interpersonal relationships by offering advice on dealing with difficult people and providing Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).

The experience of difficult relationships and unresolved conflict has a significant impact on health, resulting in stress, exacerbating existing health problems and if tension persists can lead to substantial ill-health problems.

Anxiety and fear are significant in neighbour disputes. People feel watched, believe that noise and other actions of their neighbours are deliberately intended to provoke, perhaps because they have reported their neighbour. Processes used to investigate neighbour disputes, such as completing diary sheets, can increase anxiety and fear, tuning parties into looking for problem behaviours. This can create a negative focus and outlook, sometimes resulting in obsessive observational behaviour if a formal evidence gathering approach is pursued. This can be necessary in some cases, but in general, the approach is counterproductive.

The pilot project will establish an advice and mediation service in a health and well-being centre in Sheffield. Direct access to ADR via a health centre will enable all users of the health centre access to the service.

The project interventions are expected to impact on people's health and wellbeing by reducing stressors and stress and increasing self-efficacy. We would expect to see a reduction in mental and physical health symptoms and thus a reduction in the use of medical services.

Additionally, in MESH's experience, it has found that this form of intervention can be empowering to both individuals and their communities. MESH works with vulnerable individuals to help them recognise they do have choices about how they live their life, which can have long-term positive impacts on their lives and the fabric of their community becomes more resilient.

The project will also improve participants’ interpersonal life skills toolkit so that they are more able to constructively work through difficult situations and conflicts in the wider world, for example in a workplace or educational establishment. This will offer an additional personal resource on which participants can draw that will empower them to tackle the deprivation around educational attainment and employment that contributes to the economic and wider inequalities in the locality.

MESH has a strong success rate, with improvements reported by both parties to the dispute in 84% of cases, and full resolution in 42%. Of MESH's services, Chesterfield Borough Council said:

MESH have had some really good results that have helped neighbours who have had bitter fall-outs involving the wider community, to be able to live their lives without being frightened of more trouble with their neighbours. Some of these disputes have gone on for years, and caused a lot of distress, with people feeling that they need to move out of their homes...It is not an easy option as it means being open, honest and perhaps willing to compromise, but for the tenants that have gone through it, it has made a huge difference in being able to live comfortably in their neighbourhood.

About MESH Community Cohesion Services

Founded in 1989 on the principles of simplicity, openness, and honesty, MESH Community Cohesion Services is a charity dedicated to improving the Sheffield, South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire communities through alternative, more positive means of resolving conflict.

MESH provides mediation services including neighbour, community (neighbourhood), family and workplace mediation. The charity provides a ‘community cohesion’ service in neighbourhoods experiencing tensions. It does this by working in partnership with neighbourhood groups, organisations and statutory services.

MESH is a recognised centre of excellence in mediation training providing bespoke training packages to individuals and groups. MESH also trains staff of well-known mediation providers and organisations wishing to deliver their own in-house mediation services.

Additionally, MESH provides training to volunteers and to front line service providers in neighbour mediation skills and practices. The trainees find these skills helpful for dealing with a wide variety of situations, including negotiating, dealing with difficult people, and family situations.

For more information please contact:

MESH Community Cohesion Services Mike Fitter MESH Lead Trustee for Community Mediation Email:

MESH Community Cohesion Services, Scotia Works, Leadmill Road, Sheffield S1 4SE

South Yorkshire's Community Foundation Shannon Roberts Mobile: 07792 165397 Email:

Riverside Works, Unit 9 – 12, Jessops Riverside, 800 Brightside Lane, Sheffield S9 2RX