Amount Given:

£120,000 over three years (grant made in 2016)


Participation - marginalised and excluded individuals and groups



Laura Bowman,

Grants Manager, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation


Comas works alongside communities to develop creative and flexible solutions to entrenched social issues, such as poverty and loneliness. It is an approach that gives ownership and voice to those with lived experiences, often designing work that goes beyond the typical weekday, time-limited interventions of more traditional support models.  We are interested in supporting work which takes a new approach to tackling the persistent causes of exclusions and work that can enable people to live more fulfilling lives. Comas achieves both by putting people at the centre of the process and demonstrating approaches that can be relatively inexpensive to adopt by others. We were keen to provide flexible core funding to allow Comas to continue to test and develop creative community-led solutions.

Ruth Campbell,

Chief Executive, Comas


Comas is working to create and empower communities to provide support and opportunities for vulnerable people. Our work engages people struggling with mental illness, addictions, poverty and loneliness in providing solutions, connecting people to thriving community hubs such as our recovery café and community shop. This leads to a very local, holistic and flexible support over 7-days – a very cost effective long term solution for people who often drop out of “services”. Our challenge is to find sustainable ways of underpinning this community-led development with all the help people need to maintain local initiatives: local premises, training, advice and co-ordination, and day to day resources to keep going. 

The form of community-led co-production we have involved our communities in, is effective in preventing the need for services and reducing the number of agencies or services that might ordinarily have to be involved in a vulnerable person’s  life to meet all their needs. However, this approach is rarely contracted or commissioned. With the help of the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation we want to strengthen our capacity to extend our approaches to more communities, and raise the profile of the social impact community development can make.

Peter, Andrzej and Benny*,

*Some Names have been changed to protect the anonymity of the community members.


Andrew is community member of Dumbiedykes and helps weekly at 20 More. Last year Andrew was so depressed that he couldn’t get out of the house for an hour without feeling exhausted. It was only until he started helping at 20 more that his mental health became better.  Andrew also suffers from a chronic illness and believes because of his better state of mind he is also physically better, becoming sick less often. Once from a customer service background, Andrew thought he had lost all his skills, however volunteering at 20 More contradicted his thinking and he now has his confidence back. Andrew was equally as surprised to meet friends.

I’m a friendly person but here I met so many people I like and can be friends with. The shop also brings all walks of life, not just people from Dumbiedykes but from Bathgate, from Poland, from Sudan. It keeps things interesting.

Andrew also tells of how 20 more is a safe space for him. With previous addiction problems he’s only relapsed once and has felt comforted by the Comas staff’s non-judgemental attitude, support and care.

Dariuz came to work at 20 More to give him a purpose each day. He tells of how he was losing time from his life before being involved in 20 More. Before, Darius was pretty isolated. The shop opened up the opportunity for Darius to meet new people but also allows Dariuz to practice speaking and thinking in English. He also attributes the shop to helping him keep active, from shopping to lifting to cleaning.  Previously a business owner in Poland, Dariuz contemplates getting back to opening up a business once again. He believes the shop allows him to trial his capacity/capability to work in terms of his health, ‘I’m getting to know what I can and can’t do’.

Since recovering from addictions, Tony has now been involved with the café for a year. Initially it gave him a place to come when he felt lonely however he now believes it’s more about giving him a purpose each week. Tony currently does voluntary support work within the café, supporting others facing the road to recovery.  Tony believes that through helping others he has learned ‘loads’ about himself and it has given him a sense of belonging.  Tony was surprised by the confidence and self-esteem he has developed and he now believes he has skills such as the simple act of being reliable, that he can bring forward in future employment.