Stepping Stones’ origins date back to the early 1990s, which saw a group of local people come together in Clydebank to improve services for people with mental health needs in the local area. The people involved were psychiatric patients who were inspired by the de-institutionalisation of psychiatric hospitals and the subsequent hospital closure programme set out as part of the NHS and Community Care Act (Scotland) 1990. The Act ensured that each person’s community care needs were assessed and that those needs had to be considered before allocation of resources. Underpinning the Act was the knowledge of the psychiatric survivor’s movement which arose out of the civil rights movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s, particularly in the USA. It could be argued that the self-help and advocacy movement in the field of mental health services developed in the 1970s following the civil rights movement and it was with this in mind the group involved in developing Stepping Stones established the organisation as 100% user led. Following this, Stepping Stones became a charity in 1991 and later, in 2001, became a company limited by guarantee.
Originally serving the Clydebank area, the organisation received funding from West Dunbartonshire Council through the Mental Health Specific Grant and in 1995 the first staff members were recruited. The charitable objectives of the organisation were mainly reflected in the types of services designed. They were mostly based on group work and peer support fully utilising the skills of the members in the governance of the organisation, providing opportunities for empowerment, self advocacy, employability and education. In March 2016, the organisation held an extraordinary general meeting to propose a change in its Articles of Association. In effect, the change allows non members to join the board with full voting rights, however, board members who are members of Stepping Stones will always hold the majority of votes as this was built in to the change in the Articles of Association. The changes in the Articles of Association were passed unanimously.
In 2006 Stepping Stones commenced providing services across West Dunbartonshire utilising rented accommodation, NHS and community premises and provided a range of mental health support services to people who have mild to moderate mental health conditions. The services are person centred and collaborative in their approach and are informed by a number of codes of practice and ethics. These services include group work; peer support opportunities; 1:1 support (time limited and non time limited); complementary therapies; Person Centred Therapy (PCT) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).