Step Forward

Supporting you, whichever direction you decide to take

Jump straight to our referral form

What is Step Forward?

This is a new service, initially funded for 2 years by North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Boards through the wider NHS Mental Health Transformation Fund, which provides tailored support for people, aged 18+, in North Cumbria who are facing challenges from Severe Mental Health Experiences (SMHE).

It will be delivered through a personalised 1-1 development plan by our Step Forward team here at Cumbria CVS, working in partnership with a range of local mental health providers.


Key aims

We want to play our part in helping break down the stigma around mental health, particularly for those living with SMHE. Also, and importantly, we want to address the barriers faced when it comes to accessing volunteering, work readiness training and work opportunities.


Why is this type of service important?

Ultimately because mental health is just like physical health, we all have it, and we need to take care of it. Especially as everyone will go through different experiences, whether big or small that will affect our life at some point. Experiences, whether good or bad that will impact us in different ways, from positive to negative, short to long-term and everything in between.

Who will the service support?

Individual’s living with SMHE who are currently:

  • Not working but looking to take those first steps back into employment or volunteering
  • Looking for training to help them prepare for when they feel ready to start work
  • In employment but have spare time and have been considering giving back through volunteering

Business/organisations looking to:

  • Improve their end-to-end recruitment process to help remove barriers to employment, particularly for those with SMHE
  • Supporting existing wellbeing practices to improve engagement for those returning to work
  • Build stronger community engagement to develop and strengthen volunteer relationships and opportunities in North Cumbria

Key features of the support offered includes:

  • 1 – 1 tailored development plan to support people on an individual level. This could include:
    • An initial, short chat with one of our friendly team, who will then connect them with our Mental Health Volunteering and Employment Officer, for a more in-depth chat about clear ‘Steps Forward’ – Supporting someone, working together to create a practical and realistic plan to help them achieve their goals, supported by a range of mental health providers.
    • Work taster opportunities that enable someone to start thinking about a return to work.
    • A job support service, providing tailored work readiness training and support as people explore employment opportunities that are right for them and their circumstances.
    • If someone is not quite ready to get back to work, but wants to give back or learn some new skills there are opportunities to get involved in volunteering (formal or informal and online or in person), work experience, skill building courses.
    • Support from a Volunteer Mental Health Buddy – someone trained to support an individual with SMHE on an informal level whatever their next steps may be.
  • Signposting and referral for any wider support services (where needed/appropriate)


Mental Health Toolkit

Whether you are an employer supporting someone living alongside mental health experiences or an employee looking for support, advice and resources take a look at our toolkit!

The toolkit is normally accessed via our mailing list which we will use every quarter to update people on the changes in the toolkit. It’s a resource that we want to update with the latest resources and information to keep it relevant.

You can sign up to our mailing list below.


We could help, contact us

Our Step Forward Team understand that everyone is on their own journey and everyone’s experience and circumstances are unique to them.

That is why our aim is to tailor the service, specifically supporting the needs of the individual, their experience, and their circumstances – with the support of our friendly Step Forward team, Mental Health Partners and Volunteer Buddies.

But having that initial chat is a huge, positive first step. So, whether you are looking to:

  • self-refer to the service
  • make a referral for someone you think would benefit from this support service
  • express an interest to volunteer with the project or
  • simply find out a little more about the service and if it’s right for you

Get in touch with our Step Forward team on 01768 800350, or email

Join our mailing list to hear about mental health support and resources available to you and your employees.

Or, if you are in crisis and need more immediate help, please click here to see some of the external services that may help.


Step Forward into Volunteering and Employment Referral Form

  • Please provide at least one of the contact details below. If you are referring for someone else, or want to find out more about volunteering with Step Forward, please select from the options below, and use the text area to add your query.
  • The following contact and location details need to be those of the person being referred to the service, including if you’re referring on behalf of someone else. If you are referring on behalf of someone else and they don’t have any immediate contact details, please just let us know in the ‘In your own words box below’.
  • Data Protection: For the purposes of General Data Protection Regulations 2018, the data controller in respect of your personal data is Cumbria CVS. Your data will be used to administer this StepForward referral or volunteering enquiry. Your information will only be shared with Step Forward partners and will not be shared with any other third party without your prior permission and will be disposed of in line with our Document Retention Policy. As regards sending information regarding our services, we will do this until such time as you ask us not to.


Blog posts from the team

19/02/24 Maria’s Mental Health blog – Maria Bezuszko, Step Forward Referral Coordinator, shares a personal update on a busy 2023, managing her mental health, and how the Step Forward in to Volunteering and Employment programme can support businesses address wellbeing in the workplace.

11/08/22 Getting ready to Step Forward
30/09/22 How Does Employment/Volunteering impact positively on Mental Health?
07/10/22 World Mental Health Day: The Importance of Connecting
27/10/22 Stress awareness and managing our time
24/11/22 Step Forward project update
06/12/22 Perceptions: The masks we wear