How the Healthy Lifestyles programme helped Chris get back in the saddle

We know that physical and mental health are closely linked, and that physical activity is very good for your mental health and wellbeing. So it’s quite ironic that poor mental health often stops people from wanting to be physically active – even if exercise and sport is something they previously enjoyed.

We saw an example of this when we first met Chris, who came to us as part of his recovery after an episode of psychosis.

Years ago, before he became ill, Chris had been very physically active. He studied physiotherapy and regularly took part in karate, Capoeira and breakdancing, as well as walking and cycling with his family. But, after his episode, he disengaged from all types of social activities – including the regular exercise that he used to love.

By 2015, although he was receiving treatment and was on the road to recovery, it was clear that Chris needed some support to start enjoying physical activity again – and this is when he was referred to our Healthy Lifestyles project.

Part of the reason Healthy Lifestyles works so well is that sessions have a strong social element, and participants are encouraged to get involved at their own pace – whether that’s as part of a large group, in small groups, or one-to-one with staff. Since joining us in 2015, Chris has taken part in more and more activities, including sports-based activities like walking, cycling, badminton and Tai Chi, but also trips to the cinema and local parks. Over the 32 weeks he’s engaged with the programme, he’s now done 240 hours of activity.

Now, Chris attends almost everything that is suggested to him and is currently coming to two sessions a week, as well as working towards a Sport Leaders Award: a Level 1 Qualification in Sports Leadership. His mental health is improving and he tells us he feels healthier and stronger all round. Chris is originally from Poland, and coming along to the sessions has not only improved his general social and communication skills, but it’s helped him with his English language skills too.

For the last three months, Chris has also been attending the Cycling Wellbeing Club, which has been really good for him. Not only has he learned about bike maintenance and road safety, but he’s been given a long-term bike loan from Big Birmingham Bikes, which means he is now able to go on regular cycling trips with his mum! His family are really happy with his progress and we’re really pleased for him too.

Chris kindly allowed us to film a bit of the Tai Chi class he led this week as part of his Sport Leaders Award, so you can see just how far he’s come.

Going back to our roots: the origins of Start Again

Although Start Again is here for all young people, we’ve recently been going “back to our roots” by working with more and more young people who have mental health issues. To understand why mental health is at the core of our work, Mark Peters, the founder of Start Again, shares his story.

Mark Peters, founder of the Start Again Project

Mark Peters, founder of the Start Again Project

The reason I’m interested in mental health in young people is quite a personal one. And that’s because the idea for setting up Start Again eight years ago came not just from my love of sport (I’m an ex-professional footballer) but from my family’s own experience with the health service.

I grew up in north Birmingham as part of a big family, with an older sister and two younger foster brothers.

My brothers each moved out when they turned 18, to their own flats in Erdington. But their lives were quite different. One brother flourished – he went to university – but the other isolated himself, becoming more and more withdrawn.

We could tell he was ill, but we struggled to understand how, and we were finding it harder to reach him. One day, my other brother went to visit him and found everything in his backpack wrapped up in clingfilm. That was the moment we knew he needed serious help.

Sadly, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and sectioned when he was 22.

While my brother was in hospital, we found his treatment very frustrating. Each day, a group of doctors, nurses and other clinical professionals would do a ward round, and suggest the next steps for his recovery. These steps included a series of different medications, and some counselling, but no real engagement.

To me, it felt like no-one was really listening to what he wanted; no-one ever seemed to get to know him.

I was a youth worker at the time, working with a charity, and this treatment didn’t chime with my own knowledge of working with young people. In my work, I’d learned that the best way of engaging someone was to listen to them, to find out what they were interested in, and to make a connection that way. To me, it felt like there was a gap here in the way the health service was supporting young people like my brother.

In a way, my brother was lucky, because he had a supportive family with the resources to step in and fight for the help he needed to bring back his self-esteem and become more resilient and independent. I wanted others to have that too.

In my brother’s case, he was a keen musician, so we started going to music meetups together, but for many of the young people I met, sport was a big pull. I began to see how I could use my background in sport as a way of really connecting with people, in a way the health service hadn’t been able to do.

The idea of Start Again Project was born.

Research shows that sport can help young people in crisis to gain control of their lives, and to learn new skills to help them lead a fuller life. So I started running football sessions with added support for people with mental ill health. These sessions of “meaningful activity” allow outreach workers to really connect with people and to support them in a way that allows them to build up their confidence and self-esteem. We continue to run several “meaningful activity” sessions every week.

Within the first few years we realised that accommodation was a big issue. As well as people suffering from mental illness, we met care leavers and young homeless people who needed support.

We realised that, by offering accommodation too, we could provide a safe place for young people to live, with all the support they need to encourage good choices and work towards education or employment.

Since then, Start Again has set up housing in Birmingham and Solihull. To date we have provided supported accommodation for over 150 young people, including care leavers, refugees and asylum seekers, as well as people with mental illness.

You can see more of Mark in this video about Start Again Project, from 2016.

From sport to social life: Rosie’s story

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, we’re sharing the story of Rosie, who’s made great progress since she came to us as a teenager.

Rosie’s story

Start Again Project works with young people who have a variety of mental health illnesses, including some that are quite severe.

Our Healthy Lifestyles programme uses sport and leisure activities to improve the wellbeing of young people who have experienced a first episode of psychosis. Start Again’s physical activity outreach staff work closely with clinical staff to provide a bespoke programme of activities for young people who join the programme.

One of those young people is Rosie, who’s now 22.

Rosie first came to us three years ago, via the Early Intervention Service, after an episode of psychosis. When we first met Rosie, she used to get quite anxious in social situations, and had low self-esteem.

Rosie has autism, and her mum admits she’d become quite protective of her daughter. As a result, she relied on her mum a lot and wasn’t very independent. She never travelled anywhere on her own, or interacted with other young people – she didn’t have any hobbies, or much of a social life.

So we worked with Rosie, her mum, and the clinical team to put together a package of activity that would help her gain some independence and meet more people her own age. The Healthy Lifestyles programme enables us to offer young people a range of sport and social activity, which in turn helps them with social recovery, and Rosie was invited to join some of these sessions.

One of them is a two-hour weekly group session, which includes an hour of multisport physical activity followed by an hour of socialising – listening to music, playing cards, playing table tennis or just chatting. It’s ideal for Rosie.

Building confidence and independence

Since she’s been coming to Start Again Project, Rosie has built up her confidence by gradually taking part in more and more activities. Her mum still accompanies her the first time she visits somewhere new but after that, she’s happy to get the bus or train and travel on her own. She plays badminton as often as she can, and she’s started working towards a Sport Leaders Award: a Level 1 Qualification in Sports Leadership.

Importantly, she’s also been taking part in social activities, including going for meals, walking and exercising with different groups, and taking part in team building challenges. We run these activities all over Birmingham, so she’s experienced a number of new places for the first time with us – and she’s learning to turn her anxiety into excitement for new challenges.

Over the 45 weeks she’s engaged with the programme, she’s now done 420 hours of activity!

Start Again Project Outreach Lead Chantel says,

“Rosie has made brilliant progress. She travels on her own now – she’s very punctual and reliable – and she attends almost everything that is suggested to her. At the moment, she’s coming to three sessions a week and we can see how much her social skills have improved by the way she communicates with the other young people during the activities. She tells us she really enjoys doing and seeing new things, which is brilliant.”

Chantel recorded a little interview with Rosie this week. Have a listen to what she has to say about Start Again Project in her own words.

Healthy Lifestyles was developed in partnership with Forward Thinking Birmingham (FTB), thanks to funding from Sport England’s small grants scheme and Birmingham Council’s Community Safety Fund. Ruth Clutterbuck, from FTB partner Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust, explains the thinking behind Healthy Lifestyles from a clinical point of view:

“There is an increasing body of evidence indicating that in order to optimise long term functioning following a psychotic episode, symptomatic remission is not enough. Crucially, symptomatic recovery needs to be followed up by gains in social recovery to promote longer term wellbeing for young people who have experienced a first episode of psychosis.

“The Start Again Healthy Lifestyle Programme has been designed alongside clinicians to engage service users into interventions aimed at improving social recovery. Using an assertive outreach model, young people are offered a person-centred, bespoke package of activity informed by their care plan, recovery goals and in collaboration with the clinical team. Early reports from staff and service users suggest high levels of satisfaction with the programme alongside gains in social confidence and well being.”

New Door Step Club at YMCA Erdington

“New sports session to commence at brand new sports facility in Erdington”

Erdington based Community Interest Company, Start Again Project are pleased to announce a new sports programme to take place at the brand new sports hall at the YMCA in Erdington.

The organisation has received funding from the national sports charity Street Games, to set up a new Door Step Club programme for young people aged 14 to 25 who suffer with their physical and mental health and face barriers to participating in regular sport.

The programme will take place every Monday at the recently opened YMCA community facility between 12:30pm and 2pm.

The session will involve a variety of sports and activities including accessing the Street Games network of festivals and events across other towns and cities. Importantly the session will also take advantage of the excellent facilities at the venue which provides an opportunity to socialise and meet like-minded young people.

Erdington based Start Again Project has been in existence for 8 years delivering outreach sport and well-being programmes and providing semi supported accommodation to some of the city’s most vulnerable young people.

Jamie Bunch, Director for Sport and Meaningful Activity at Start Again Project said “We are pleased to team up with Street Games and YMCA Erdington to develop more sports opportunities, especially for young people who face barriers to participating in mainstream sport. The sessions will be delivered in our own community by qualified and experienced staff that will ensure all young people will have great fun and enjoyment playing a variety of sports in a safe and secure environment”

Established in 2005, Street Games helps to make sport more widely available for young people living in disadvantaged communities throughout the UK. The benefits of this ‘doorstep sports’ approach include providing a wide range of sports and activities in the right style, at the right time. 

For more information please call 0121 604 9637 or contact [email protected]

Start Again Multi Sports Poster-page-001

UEFA Foundation for Children Funding

“Start Again Project CIC secure UEFA funding for local young people”

Erdington based Community Interest Company, Start Again Project have successfully secured funding from UEFA to deliver weekly football programmes and support sessions to young people from new and arriving communities in Birmingham.

The two year funded programme will aim to engage young people between the ages of 12 – 25 years to a variety of venues across the city.  Specific programmes will be developed by Start Again female coaches with the aim of engaging girls and women.

The Erdington based organisation has been in existence for 8 years delivering outreach sport and well-being programmes and providing semi supported accommodation to some of the city’s most vulnerable young people.

Working with local partners and community groups across Birmingham, the project will recruit young people who are newly arrived in the UK and seeking asylum.

Participants will have the opportunity to train and play in football sessions on a weekly basis in community sport facilities that aim to provide physical and mental health benefits to their everyday lives.

Essentially at each session Start Again Project will provide expertise to assist the young people with accommodation advice and guidance. This will also be complimented by inviting local training and careers organisation’s to support young people’s employment prospects.

Jamie Bunch, Director for Sport and Meaningful Activity at Start Again Project said “The power of sport for social change is well documented and we are really pleased and thankful to UEFA Foundation for Children for funding us to develop the project in Birmingham. Been able to play football will provide health and social benefits however the expertise and guidance to accommodation and other areas of personal need really makes this project unique for young people who are new to the Birmingham community”.

The first sessions to start will commence on the 1st August and take place every Thursday 1pm – 2:30pm until 1st September 2016 at Power League Aston, with further venues and programmes starting in September to be announced in due course.

For more information please call 0121 604 9637 or contact [email protected]

All Nations Poster-page-001

Start Again Welcomes New Director Of Sport & Physical Wellbeing To The Team

Start Again Project extends a warm welcome to our new Director of Sport & Physical Wellbeing, Jamie Bunch.

Jamie, who joins the team at a pivotal season in our growth will oversea the development of Start Again’s Health and Wellbeing programmes which include sport, physical activity and mentoring. Start Again recognises the role sport and wider meaningful activity can play in the support of young people. In the few short months Jamie has been with Start Again he has already played a significant role in ensuring that our services are developing according to the needs of our young people and also tightening the work we undertake with our partners.

Jamie initially pursued a career as a footballer, enjoying seasons as a young professional with Birmingham City FC and then on a part-time basis with several non league Football Clubs. He remained in football as an administrator, joining West Bromwich Albion’s Football in the Community Scheme. During his 13 years with the West Midlands club, Jamie worked his way up to the position of Sporting Director, playing a lead role in the development of the rebranded Albion Foundation into a nationally recognised scheme. He has spearheaded many local, regional and national initiatives that branched out from the football development staple into wider sport and community initiatives, including the formation of the unique Sporting Club Albion concept. His skills and capabilities have taken him all over the country strategically working from grassroots to professional level with clubs such as Burton Albion, West Bromwich Albion’s Academy and Tottenham Hotspurs. Since returning to work in the Midlands Jamie has continued to work on a variety of programmes and initiatives though consultancy contracts and after initially providing some consultancy support to Start Again agreed to become a Director of Start Again Project.


(Left to right: Deon Wignall, Jamie Bunch, Ed Wicks)

Speaking about his role with Start Again, Jamie Said:

“I am really pleased to have committed to Start Again Project after enjoying my time working here in a consultancy capacity. I’ve been at the forefront of developing community sport operations in professional football clubs in both London and the Black Country and I genuinely believe we have similar potential here. There is a real opportunity in Birmingham to create sport and meaningful activity based programmes that engage, inspire and make a real difference to the well being of local young people”

(Left to Right: Mark Peters, Jamie Bunch, Darren Byfield)


Jamie will play an active role in the development of new partnerships for Start Again. When asked his thought’s on the importance of this, he said:

“Creating genuine working partnerships will be essential, especially in these changing times however we hope the quality of our work and the impact it has will enable us to attract the resources to allow us to increase our provision across the city”.

On Your Bike! Birmingham City Council Helps Take Young People For A Ride

Birmingham City Council has presented Start Again Project with 19 Mountain bikes to help the young people they work with improve their mobility and access opportunities.

The Council’s Big Birmingham Bike Scheme which launched in October 2015 is part of a £54.4 million investment from the Department of Transport and match funders to help Birmingham residents improve their mobility and improve their mental and physical health. The scheme which will be funded from 2014 to 2018 will deliver up to 5000 bikes to Birmingham and develop and locate 22 cycle centres with support from leisure centres and parks. It will also provide up to 1000 bikes for community groups and individuals to use for free on a long term basis.

One such community group is Birmingham based Social Enterprise, Start Again Project; which since being established in 2009 has worked with nearly 3000 young people from deprived areas across the city, dealing with multiple issues affecting their positive development, such as poor mental health, homelessness, unemployment and domestic abuse. Start Again recently relaunched their Sport & Wellbeing programme commissioned by Birmingham Public Health, which delivers a range of activities such as Football, Netball, Cricket, Walking and now Biking.

On the 9th November 2015, Big Birmingham Bikes, Cycling and Development Officer Ed Wicks presented a few members of the Start Again Project team with the first of 19 bikes donated to the project. When asked about the hopes he has for the scheme he said:

We’d like to make bicycles available to people across Birmingham where the cost of purchasing a bike may be an obstruction to owning or using one. This may be to improve mobility for employment opportunities or just to improve physical or mental health. We’re working with various groups and organisations to do this including Start Again, St Basils, CRI (Reach Out Recovery) and Public Health England as these groups already work with and have identified people that could benefit from cycling in some way or other.”


(Left to right: Jamie Bunch, Deon Wignall, Ed Wicks)

The Bikes now mean that young people living within Start Again’s accommodation have access to ‘pool transport’ which will enable them to get to and from interviews, appointments easier and generally improve their physical health and wellbeing.

Of the donation, Jamie Bunch, Start Again’s Director of Sport & Physical Wellbeing said:

“We’re really pleased to work with the Bike Scheme to provide our residential young people with bikes. Following the recent boom in cycling we have heard lots about the physical health benefits however we should not underestimate how this supports young people’s emotional well-being through a means of transport to places like college and work. The bikes have proven to be very popular and we look forward to developing more cycling sessions across the city in our outreach programmes which aims to support those young people who would like to access sport or activity to improve their well-being.

For more information on this article, contact Daina Anderson at Social Enterprise Marketing on 0121 448 5570 / 07961759975 or [email protected].

A Start Again Project & Birmingham City Council Representative are available for comment on this piece.

For more information on Start Again Project visit

Birmingham Public Health Recommissions Start Again To Help Young People Tackle Mental Health

In the wake of the New Mental Health Charter for Sport & Recreation, Birmingham Public Health have commissioned Start Again Project to use Sports and Physical Activity to help engage young people suffering from poor mental health.

The recent commission will enable Start Again Project to continue to deliver their ongoing Sport & Wellbeing Programme aimed at improving the lives of young people suffering with mental health and emotional issues. The programme which continues to be rolled out across Birmingham throughout October/November 2015 comes in the wake of the newly launched Mental Health Charter; created by the Sports and Recreation Alliance alongside the Professional Players association. The Charter, which is designed to set out how sport can use its collective power to tackle mental health and the stigma around it, has garnered support from a number of professional athletes such as ex-professional footballer Jimmy Bullard, Olympic silver medallist Gale Emms, Horse Racing Jockey Frankie Dettori and Tour De France winner Chris Froome to name a few. Now, local Social Enterprise Start Again Project is set to join The Mental Health Charters rank of growing number of affiliates this winter.

Start Again is a pioneering Social Enterprise that provides services in Physical Activity, Sport and Supported Accommodation which aim to improve the life chances of young people dealing with complex issues such as homelessness, poor mental health, domestic abuse, social exclusion and anti-social behaviour. Through the work they do, young people are encouraged to build their self-esteem, confidence and raise their aspirations to enable them to live a more independent life. To date, the organisation which has been in operation since 2009 has supported over 2,500 young people across the West Midlands.


Start Again All Nations Football Fest August 2015

The Sport & Wellbeing Programme will deliver a range of activities such as Football, Netball, Cricket, Walking and biking with an aim to engage young people between the ages of 13 to 30, whilst creating a fun environment where young people feel safe with no expectations on their physical abilities. Participants will have the opportunity to open up about their complex issues to people and staff that will help and guide them into progressive avenues. Young people wanting to take part are able to self-refer and attend any of the sessions as long as, they reside in Birmingham, are not in regular sport or physical activity, and have previously experienced or are experiencing some level of emotional issues such as anxiety, depression, lack of self-confidence, social exclusion or generally just feeling down.

Speaking about the upcoming project, Start Again Founder Mark Peters said:

“There’s concrete evidence that demonstrates the benefits that participating in sport and physical activity has on improving wellbeing as well as the social recovery of an individual from prescribed medications. However, evidence also demonstrates many young people are reluctant to inform GP’s and professionals about their emotional and mental health issues. Through this programme we provide a unique platform for young people to take part in regular physical activity but just as importantly work with our staff that will listen and help the access the appropriate professional support.” 

For more information on this article, contact Daina Anderson at Social Enterprise Marketing on 0121 448 5570 / 07961759975 or [email protected]. A Start Again Project & Birmingham Public Health Representative is available for comment on this piece.

For more information on Start Again Project visit


Start Again Project is looking to recruit 2 Support Workers. Could one of them be you?

Start Again Project

A Community Interest Company whose mission is to enable young people to develop their personal, and social development. Enabling them to lead a fuller life in their communities. Are recruiting for 2 Youth Support Worker posts 16hrs and 20hrs per week.

Based in Birmingham, with a growing network of development and delivery partners in the UK and overseas, our objective is to provide a range of opportunities that enable young people to develop understanding and skills allowing them to:

  • Build confidence to broaden horizons
  • Socialise and have fun
  • Inspire young people to set their own goals
  • To provide relevant and appropriate opportunities to young people
  • Promote healthy living
  • Provide safe homes and stability

As the successful candidate you would be instrumental in assisting young people in making a transition to independent living in a caring and structured environment ensuring a multi-agency approach to delivering bespoke support tailored to the individual needs of each young person we work with.

Deadline for Applications is Friday 4th April 2014 – 5pm

Please return applications to [email protected]

For further information please email [email protected] or call 0121 347 6287

Interviews will take place on Monday 14th April 2014.

If you have not been contacted by April 8th you have not been short-listed for an interview.

Support Worker position annual salary £16,575 (pro rata to 20 hrs/16 hours).

These Post will be in operation until March 31st 2015 with the possibility of being extended beyond dependant on contracts.

Click here to for more details of the posts and click here to apply for the post.

Start Again Project publishes book

We are delighted to announce that Start Again Project has now published the long-awaited Collection of Inspirational Short Stories by Inspirational Young People written by Author and Social Entrepreneur, Daina Anderson of Playwright Media.

Designed Peter Scarks Design, SAP have used the popular platform, which lets you make, self-publish, print & sell books online.

There are 10 short stories of young people who have benefitted from Start Again Project. There’s a piece about author, Daina Anderson, a bio of Mark Peters, who set up SAP, and a chapter outlining the work SAP do, plus a forward by Yvonne Roberts who writes for The Guardian and The Observer.

We really hope you like it! Please support us by buying a copy. Click Here to purchase a copy of the book, priced at £4.99