Breathing Space: An evaluation of Orbit’s mental health programme

Tuesday 25th of July 2023

Breathing Space is a mental health service run by Orbit. It was established in April 2017, with the purpose of supporting Orbit customers to achieve positive improvements in their mental health. The service arose from Orbit’s increasing awareness of the poor mental health of many customers, including many in general needs properties.


Recognising that it does not have expertise in mental health, Orbit contracted five delivery partners to provide mental health support across the midlands, east and south-east of England. To coordinate referrals into these delivery partners, Mental Health Matters were also contracted to provide a Single Point of Access (SPOA), which takes referrals from Orbit staff and passes them on to the relevant local delivery partner.


Orbit commissioned HACT to carry out an independent evaluation of the Breathing Space service in April 2019. The evaluation framework is designed to provide an independent assessment of how Breathing Space has been delivered in practice, its performance during the reporting period, and learning that can be applied to future tendering and service design to optimise impact. The evaluation was carried out using a mixed-methods approach, incorporating quantitative and qualitative research, desk review of Orbit documents and wider literature, and a Social Value assessment.


The outcomes of this research included:

  • The service is filling local gaps in mental health provision. All the delivery partners noted that the majority of people who have been supported are those who would not otherwise have got support, because mental health services across all the Breathing Space areas are patchy and over-capacity.
  • The service has been supporting people with higher needs than intended, but as adapted well to this. Because of the lack of other mental health services, Breathing Space has got significant numbers of referrals of people whose mental health support needs are higher than the low-level for which the service was originally designed. However, Orbit and the delivery partners have adapted well to this, with delivery partners reporting that they have been able to successfully support these higher need service users in most cases.
  • Delivery partners have a good relationship with Orbit and value the rangeofsupportOrbitprovides. ThereishoweverscopeforOrbitand deliver partners to be even more collaborative and to therefore deliver an even more holistic service.
  • Service user feedback was overwhelmingly positive. The service users engaged by HACT really valued the service and felt it had positively impacted their lives and provided support where previously they had been unable to get any.


Find out more here