Health and Wellbeing Programme


CDARS  has  30  years of  experience  with high  needs clients  faced with mental  health issues,  substance  misuse,  domestic  violence,  poverty  and  much  else. We  help  over  1200 people  each  year by  providing  a  number  of services  designed to support vulnerable people with complex needs, including people with drug  and  alcohol misuse,  mental health, veterans and perpetrators of domestic  violence.

The Health and Wellbeing programme is based at and delivered from our Sunshine Recovery Café in Kingston Road, Wimbledon Chase.  A Crisis Recovery Café that we run, designed to respond to crisis episodes of residents of the Boroughs of Merton, Wandsworth, Sutton, Richmond and Kingston affected by mental health issues.

Why the programme is needed 

Our clients face multiple complex problems which exacerbate their social isolation, and unequal access to health and wellbeing activities. Poverty, unemployment and mental health issues, make it near impossible for them to access fitness activities and other commercial recreational activities, and healthy nutrition.

With funding from Reaching Communities (August 2016 and August 2019), we have already delivered a comprehensive Health and Wellbeing programme for people in recovery from substance misuse. This was a first of its kind within CDARS and it has enabled us to gather a lot of evidence about the impact of such a programme on beneficiaries, as well as what they engage in best. The programme has evolved a lot over the last 2.5 years, taking into consideration feedback and suggestions from participants to refine the delivery of the programme.

We now have hard evidence that this programme is effective in improving our beneficiaries’ health and wellbeing and overall quality of life. In 2017/18, the programme met the following outcomes out of 197 participants:

  • 59% reported better diet and eating more healthily as well as better fitness levels
  • 53% reported having better skills and more confidence to enroll into ETE
  • 63% reported better overall health
  • 50% made new friends and engaged in social activities
  • 56% felt less isolated.

Throughout the duration of the programme, the service delivery evolved to meet the specific needs of CDARS’ beneficiaries. In that period, CDARS also won the contract from St Georges Mental Health Trust to deliver a mental health recovery café, acting as a non-clinical alternative to A&E. We therefore delivered some elements of the programme within the recovery café, meaning we were able to help people with a dual diagnosis (suffering from mental health issues alongside substance misuse). In addition, the café is open during unsociable hours (evenings and weekends) so we were able to support our beneficiaries who are employed and cannot attend the health and wellbeing programme during the daytime.

Our new Health and Wellbeing programme will further support the aim of the Sunshine recovery café to prevent an escalation of mental health crisis and to support independence.

What we aim to achieve

The Health and Wellbeing programme aims to improve the quality of life of our clients, to help them improve their physical and mental health, which in turn helps them reintegrate their community and lead more flourishing lives.

The project addresses issues of stigma around mental illness; isolation of those who suffer from mental health issues within the family and the local community; lack of integration within the local community; poor attendance from some hard to reach individuals, including BAME communities, and lack of social cohesion between communities experiencing mental illness.

The Health and Wellbeing programme celebrates diversity in Merton, Kingston, Richmond, Sutton and Wandsworth and delivers cultural activities and events that promote social cohesion and tackle discrimination. The aim is to bring the community together and break stigma around mental health, while also removing cultural barriers that prevent various communities from interacting due to their differing faiths, ethnic backgrounds or sexuality for instance.

The purpose of the project is to improve the overall health and wellbeing of people experiencing a mental health crisis, as well as their life satisfaction. We expect to achieve the following specific outcomes:

  • The Sunshine Recovery Café clients will have their confidence and self-esteem boosted as they will be encouraged to engage in the development, promotion and implementation of the events and cultural activities.
  • They will work as part of a team with their peers to generate ideas, and will be encouraged to express their opinion within a non-judgmental caring environment.
  • They will also discover skills they may not be aware they had.
  • Seeing the result of their hard work celebrated by their peers, family and the local community at events will be hugely beneficial to raising their aspirations.

What we offer

The Health and Wellbeing programme offers a comprehensive range of holistic activities covering the following key themes of wellness:

  • The programme delivers a range of weekly cultural activities and quarterly events in collaboration with other local voluntary organisations, within the Sunshine Recovery Cafe to showcase the talent of our beneficiaries and celebrate culture and diversity, and to lift the stigma of mental health by bringing people together.
  • The key difference with our previous programme is the fact that a group of service users are encouraged and trained to lead this programme.
  • Service users are involved in every aspect of delivering the programme: from designing it, to managing it alongside the Programme Manager, to supporting the sessions alongside the Facilitators.
  • In addition, they are our programme ambassadors, spreading word of mouth about the existence of the health and wellbeing programme within their communities, but also raising awareness / lifting stigma about mental health and the importance of a healthy lifestyle for their recovery journey. 

Our timetable of weekly activities includes:

  • Mindful eating/ Mindful shopping and sleep hygiene delivered by a qualified Nutritionist and a qualified Sleep Therapist.

Employment, Training and Education delivered by an Employment Coach on the following modules:

  • Motivation and goals
  • Action planning
  • ITC
  • CV writing
  • Filling in an application form
  • Interview skills
  • Job search
  • Mock interview

Physical activities such as kickboxing, tennis, Zumba, dancing, singing, stretching, chair yoga, relaxation techniques, meditation, mindful walking and self-defense. These are led by respective specialists and alternate to ensure a wide variety of activities is on offer.

Social activitie such as cultural events, arts and crafts, origami, knitting and sowing, jewelry making, cooking and social outing.

Individual counselling

Event champions/peer mentoring training on the following modules:

  • Managing Challenging Behaviour
  • Rules & Boundaries/ Code of Conduct/Confidentiality
  • Equality & Diversity
  • Group work Training
  • NLP/Mapping
  • Data protection & Policies
  • Safeguarding
  • Solution-Focused Recovery
  • Motivational Interviewing and person-centered practice.

The champions are also trained to co-facilitate the sessions and to apply for voluntary / paid jobs in the community.

The activities timetable offers day and evening sessions and a Women’s only space run on Tuesday and Thursday 11am to 2pm.

The Health and Wellbeing celebrates working collaboratively and in partnership with other local voluntary organisations in order to add value to our series of events and activities; to avoid duplication of activities in the local community and to ensure sustainable outcomes for our beneficiaries once they move on from attending the Sunshine Recovery Café.

Who can access the programme

The programme is open to all adults above 18 years of age residents of the 5 South West London boroughs (Merton, Sutton, Wandsworth, Kingston and Richmond) who experience or are at risk of a mental health crisis. The programme is inclusive in terms of gender, offering a range of activities appealing to both men and women. We also ensure the programme is accessible to people who are disabled: the recovery café is designed to offer access to wheelchair users through the availability of a ramp at the entrance of the café and special access toilets.

How can the programme be accessed

We maintain a very simple referrals process. While any professional can contact CDARS for a referral, anyone who wish to engage in the recovery journey can call the service via:

Email at:


Some Feedback from Service Users who Have Accessed the Programme are:

  • The Health and Wellbeing programme provided by CDARS gave me the opportunity to regain the Inspiration and strength I had lost along the way. Having the chance to learn new skills and find work to sustain my family is vitally important to me.
  • What really helped was learning how to choose and cook food to improve my mental health and emotional wellbeing. This was the start of my recovery.
  • I learned not to be too hard or critical on myself when a bad day does come along and that asking for help when you need it is to me NOT a sign of weakness.
  • Group meditation, EFT and dancing helps me to overcome the distressing thoughts in my mind that prevent me from breathing, relaxing, and sleeping
  • When I was trained as peer mentor, I felt my confidence growing because I was feeling satisfied with how I was helping others in some way, if only small. I do feel I regained my confidence at CDARS because I was regaining my own personality again. I was succeeding in within myself which I hadn't felt for a long, long time.

This service is funded by: