Author: Joanne Harper

Co-ordinator Caroline with Gateway's first Peer Educators

Young parents become Peer Educators

Last week, we ran the first session of training for our Peer Educators: young people who will be going into schools to talk about their experiences of parenthood.

We’re delivering this programme in the West Midlands in partnership with Straight Talking, a London charity that employs teenage mothers and young fathers to educate young people about early parenthood, healthy relationships, child sexual exploitation and sexting, enabling them to make responsible life choices.

Gateway was chosen to deliver the programme in the West Midlands because of our proven successes with services like the Pregnancy Outreach Workers Service (POWS). It’s thanks to networks and experience like this that we’ve been able to recruit young people to the programme very quickly and hit the ground running. You can hear from one of them, Emily, in the video below.

The point of Straight Talking’s Peer Educators scheme is not only to reduce the high rate of teenage pregnancy and child sexual exploitation in the UK, but to support teenage parents themselves to achieve economic wellbeing and quality of life. Because the work is paid, with full training, it offers really good work experience, building confidence and opening the door to potential longer term employment. We love this model of working – employing people with direct, personal knowledge of the issues their clients face, and helping people to help each other – and it fits perfectly with our values, aims and objectives.

Last week’s training was led by representatives from Straight Talking, together with two Peer Educators who have been working with Straight Talking in other areas of the country. It began with some sessions in the training rooms at Gateway, including how to manage a classroom – no easy task! – and how to get pupils talking. The experienced mentors helped the new recruits to learn how to set ground rules and lead ice-breaker activities that will help them to start conversations and debates with pupils.

The next day, the new Peer Educators got to see how it worked for real, as they shadowed their mentors and watched them lead some Straight Talking sessions at Grace Academy in Solihull. Gateway’s Programme Co-ordinator Caroline (pictured at the top of the page with three new recruits) said, “it was really interesting to see how engaged the pupils were and how much they seemed to enjoy learning from the Peer Educators. There were some good debates and the hands-on activities really got the pupils thinking – like deciding how they would prioritise if they were faced with having to budget for a young family. Each session ended with a young person telling their own story of becoming a teen parent, and each time it was really powerful. It clearly makes a big impression on the children.”

In the video below, Emily talks about why she wants to be a Peer Educator, and why going into schools to talk about being a teenage mum is helping her, too.

Ruben from Straight Talking said, “Working with Gateway is going to be important for Straight Talking, simply because they share the same ethos as us, which is working with people to try and get them back into employment, and working with teenage mothers to give them the best health and wellbeing. You can tell straight away with the people that Gateway brought in that it’s going to be a good working relationship.”

We’re really looking forward to finding more young people to become Peer Educators over the next few months. If you became a parent when you were a teenager, you’re still under 25 now, and you’d like to find out more, call Caroline on 0121 456 7820.

Taking a risk to invest in people’s Healthy Futures

Recently, we have decided to take a bit of a risk and relaunch a service, despite a lack of external funding. Using our own reserves, we have relaunched Healthy Futures, a programme supporting socially isolated people. In partnership with MyHealthcare, we are now taking referrals from GPs across South Birmingham.

Why? Because we know this service is desperately needed in Birmingham… and we know it works.

We know that Healthy Futures works because we ran a pilot programme in 2016. GPs and surgeries referred people who were socially isolated – for a variety of reasons – and Gateway’s para-professional staff and volunteer befrienders supported them. It was found to be a cost-effective way to reduce the time people spent with their GP (when a social intervention was more appropriate), as well as significantly increasing people’s self-reliance and self-care.

“The care navigation service is estimated to represent a saving in this scenario of approximately £10 per hour”: read how the pilot of Healthy Futures saved time for GPs and money for the NHS, according to official reports.

Importantly, we learned a number of things from the pilot, which means we know what works and what doesn’t. This has allowed us to design and relaunch a streamlined version of the service, despite limited resources.

For example, we were surprised at the age of many of the people we worked with in the pilot – we had been expecting to see a lot of elderly people, but in fact 70% of the people we saw were under 65. As well as people who wanted support to manage long term conditions, we saw a lot of alcohol dependency, anxiety and depression, accommodation issues and financial hardship.

It meant that every person we worked with initially needed intensive support from a para-professional Practice Navigator, rather than lower-level support from a Volunteer Befriender.

So, to start with, all staff working on Healthy Futures are para-professional Wellbeing Navigators. We hope that once the programme has been running for a while – depending on future income – we can introduce volunteer befrienders again, to allow people who no longer need intensive help to continue receiving a phased-down, lower level of support.

And, of course, we are continuing to apply for funding, so we’ve designed the new Healthy Futures in a way that will allow us to build capacity quickly and efficiently once we secure outside investment. With a little help, we could be supporting hundreds of socially isolated people across a wider area in no time.

“Diane was lonely, anxious and at risk”: read how the Healthy Futures pilot programme helped Diane

Healthy Futures was designed, and is being relaunched, in partnership with MyHealthcare. To find out more, or to refer patients into the service, GPs and Practice Managers should call 0121 456 7820 and ask for Healthy Futures.

Programme Coordinator Vacancy

We are looking for a Programme Coordinator to work on our new Social Prescribing Project based in Birmingham.

Gateway Family Services CIC is a leading provider of services to the health and social care sector. Our aim is to reduce inequalities in learning, employment and health.

We are currently looking for a Programme Coordinator to join our team.  You will be working within our Care Navigator Service which will be based initially within South Birmingham (travel to other areas may be required).  This is a fixed term post to end of April 2018.

The role will involve:

  • Heavily contributing to the successful set up and delivery of Care Navigator contract and providing support to management team
  • Taking responsibility for the line management of support staff
  • Direct support to clients with complex needs
  • Supporting administration of contracts and the meeting of targets.
  • Report writing on a monthly and quarterly basis

Essential requirements include experience of supervising or management staff and delivering outreach/support work.  It is also necessary that candidates have a Level 3 qualification in a health related subject.

Applicants for this post must be willing to work flexible hours that will be set around the needs of the organisation which will at times include evenings and weekends.

This post is subject to DBS disclosure as at times the post holders will come into contact with vulnerable people.

Please take a look at the Job Advert.

Care Coordinator Job Description

Application packs can be obtained by emailing Maxine Brown or by calling 0121 456 7820 quoting ref GW178

Closing date for applications is midnight on Wednesday 1st November 2017.  Completed application forms should be emailed to Joanne Harper on


Business Development Manager Vacancy


We are looking for an Experienced Business Development Manager to join our Our Team on a fixed term basis.

Gateway Family Services (GFS) is in its twelfth year and in that time it has grown to be recognised as one of the key providers of health and social care in Birmingham and the surrounding area. It has developed and delivered services, worked independently, collaboratively and in partnership.

However the business environment that GFS is currently operating in has changed markedly from that which existed when the C.I.C was established. There is intense financial pressure on the sector leading to many services disappearing or drastically reducing. Those weathering the storm best are those who have been able to compete, adapt and diversity which is why we are seeking to appoint this role to help us identify wider opportunities, engage in new networks and ultimately secure new work.

Interested?  Please take a look at the Job Advert  for more information and details of how to apply. PLEASE NOTE: THE APPLICATION DEADLINE FOR THIS VACANCY HAS PASSED

Business Development Job Description

If you’d like an informal chat about the role please contact Katherine Hewitt on 0121 456 7820/07584 682307 or via email;

Applications can be requested from Maxine Brown on 0121 456 7820 or via email;

Fun for all the family at our Health and Wellbeing Day

Medals for those who completed the 5K!

Thanks to everyone who came to our Family Health and Wellbeing Day in Cannon Hill Park on Saturday. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did!

This annual event has grown, in the last few years, from a simple Fun Run into a community event for all the family. This year’s Family Health and Wellbeing Day included health checks, parenting information, dance lessons, Tai Chi classes, games and activities for children, and two “fun run” courses – long and short – for people to run or walk.

Health Trainer Wayne carrying out a Health Check

The idea is for everyone to be able to take part in a healthy activity, no matter what their age, mobility or current physical activity levels.

Our services, including Health Trainers, Pregnancy Outreach Workers and Pre-Diabetes courses, work with people of all abilities and we’re keen for everyone to be able to get involved.

Getting some baby bath tips from POWS

We know that mental wellbeing is just as important as physical wellbeing, and the two are closely linked. So we wanted to make sure everyone had a chance to socialise and meet new friends, as well as taking the opportunity to get moving!

Saturday morning started off a bit damp, but the sun soon came out, turning it into a fabulous day for a picnic in the park. Gateway Health Trainers and Pregnancy Outreach Workers were on hand to give out health advice, carrying out health checks and parenting classes. Around 15 people entered our Fun Run, including Raymond (featured in the video below) who completed both the short course AND the full 5K with his Health Trainer Beckie!

Reza DanceFitness got us dancing

Steve from Painting the Rainbow did two Tai Chi sessions which were the perfect foil to the run – a relaxing work out for everyone. And Teresa from Reza Dance got people moving with some lively dance fitness sessions.

The kids had a great time doing a range of activities, from storytelling on the bandstand to giant Jenga and Connect 4 games, and some races especially for them.

Children enjoyed some games in the sunshine

And of course, the whole thing was topped off by a lovely picnic lunch. Everyone who registered got a goodie bag which included some healthy snacks and refreshments.

Thanks again to everyone who got involved, including Gateway staff and our friends at partner organisations who led the sessions and spread the word. Some of you may even spot yourselves in the video below…

See you again next year!

Get the whole family active at our Health and Wellbeing Day!

Click on the picture to download the full-size poster (PDF)

Looking for some easy ways to get happier and healthier? Join us for our free Family Health and Wellbeing Day on Saturday 1st July in Cannon Hill Park from 10am until 1pm. (Meet you by the bandstand!)

Building on the success of last year’s Community Fun Day, and the Fun Runs from previous years, the Family Health and Wellbeing Day is open to everyone and will include loads of fun activities for all the family, plus a free* picnic lunch, including healthy recipes to take away.

Physical activity will still be a big part of the day – we’ll still be holding the 5K Fun Run (or walk, if you prefer!) – but we wanted to make the day even more inclusive, so we’ll be putting on a range of health and wellbeing activities for all ages and abilities.

That includes some healthy picnic food, with free advice about healthy cooking and eating for those who want it… and the chance to meet new people. After all, we know that being sociable is really good for your mental health!

Our health teams will be on hand throughout the day to offer motivation and advice about all aspects of health and wellbeing, including one-to-one health checks and information about what other activities are available in your area.

We’d love to get you moving!

We know lots of people like to do the 5K Fun Run around the park, so there will be warm-up exercises and support from our Health Trainers for anyone who wants to give that a go this year. Perhaps you can beat your time from last year!

We also recognise that many people don’t want, or aren’t able, to do the 5k route, but we’d love to get everyone moving, even if it’s just a little bit. So there will be plenty of other opportunities to get active. You could join the beginners’ Tai Chi class, run by our friends at Painting the Rainbow, or perhaps a dance class led by Reza DanceFitness, who some of you might know through Solihull Lighten Up. (Make sure you wear suitable clothing.)

We’ll also be putting on more activities for children, as we saw how much fun they had last time. The kids really enjoyed the impromptu races last year, so we’ll make sure they get to run about even more this year with a range of races and silly games. There will also be storytelling sessions to feed the little ones’ growing imaginations and, of course, some facepainting fun.

*The Family Health and Wellbeing Day is totally free and you can turn up on the day – we’ll be by the bandstand – but if you want to receive a free picnic, you must register first by emailing your name, number of guests and any special dietary requirements to You can also register by phone on 0121 456 7820, or even on Twitter by using the hashtag #GatewayFun (please ensure we send a confirmation reply, though!)

We look forward to seeing you there!

Health Trainer group at the Signing Tree

Positive partnerships: strength in numbers!

Forming strong partnerships with other local organisations is a very important part of Gateway’s work.

By sharing resources we are able to provide a more cost-effective, joined-up service – both as an individual organisation and as a sector. In an environment where budgets are shrinking, effective partnerships mean less duplication of work, which saves vital resources. It also means less “pushing from pillar to post” for clients, easier access to services and one point of contact to help someone navigate through services.

People rarely have one issue they need support with, so all our services have always worked in partnership with other organisations, either formally or informally. Over the last couple of years, however, partnership work has become even more important to the Health Trainer service as they have started working with broader groups of people, reaching out to communities who might not otherwise be able to access the service.

Health Trainers at The Signing Tree

One partnership that we’ve set up relatively recently is with BID Services, a charity supporting people who are deaf, hard of hearing, visually impaired or have a dual sensory loss. BID Services runs a social enterprise called the Signing Tree, based at the Deaf Cultural Centre in Ladywood – and it’s here we now run a Health Trainer service with interpreters (one provided by Gateway, and the other by BID).

Gateway Health Trainer Richard, pictured, says, “I visit the Signing Tree once a month, where I set up a classroom together with two interpreters. If it wasn’t for them, the communication barrier would definitely be a sticking point – I don’t think many of the people I see at the Signing Tree would contact the Health Trainer service otherwise. The interpreters are brilliant – they actually get involved and help me to provide an informative yet fun session each month. We have 15 clients per session and it’s very popular – in fact last time, I had to turn four people away.”

Bhavana Jamin, Specialist Enablement Co-ordinator at BID, says, “This has been a positive experience for all the deaf people involved. The trainers make the pace of the sessions meet the clients’ needs and by this the clients became confident to participate and engage with the sessions. They gain access to information about their health and wellbeing that they may not be able to access from other areas, so they now have some knowledge of healthy food choices, and the information is presented visually.

“Word of mouth has been used to promote these sessions within the community and I now have a waiting list of people who would also like training in the future. So I look forward to working with Gateway again in the future.”

Strong partnerships allow us to do several things, especially when clients have more complex needs. They enable us to have an up-to-date knowledge of the issues that people in Birmingham are facing, so we can adapt the services we offer and respond to need as quickly and usefully as possible. It means more opportunity to help clients prioritise their needs, and to deal with issues in a way that suits the individual, by taking the services to them.

As well as the Signing Tree, we now also deliver services in partnership with a number of other organisations, including Jobcentres in South Birmingham, and Cerebral Palsy Midlands, based in Harborne.

If you would like to know more about working with Gateway, whether that’s to work with our Health Trainer service, or any other Gateway services, for example the Pregnancy Outreach Workers Service, do contact us – we’d be very pleased to hear from you.

Richard, Health Trainer

Health Trainers service at risk: please help

If you value the Health Trainers service, then we want to hear from you.

The latest round of cuts to services in Birmingham is being discussed as part of the Birmingham City Council’s budget consultation, and one of the services highlighted as being at risk is the Health Trainers service.

Health Trainers are one of the few discretionary services provided by Public Health (ie they are not statutory services), which means they are most susceptible to cuts. It’s possible that funding to the Health Trainers service will be cut dramatically, if not completely, later this year. We are currently putting together a response to the consultation to explain why Health Trainers are important to the city, and to thousands of people who receive their support.

One of the letters we’ve already received is from a woman explaining how her mother was helped by Beckie, a Gateway Health Trainer.
If you have benefited from a working with a Health Trainer, please let us know how they helped. What was your experience? What would your situation be like now if it wasn’t for your Health Trainer?

If you haven’t been supported directly, but you understand the value of the service, maybe as a partner or referrer, we’d still be very grateful for your feedback.

You can send comments to us via email at, or write to us at: Gateway Family Services, 5th Floor, Chamber of Commerce House, 75 Harborne Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 3DH, and we’ll include your comments in the response we give to the consultation next week.

Alternatively, you can respond to the consultation directly by filling out the Council survey before next Wednesday, 18th January.

And if you’d like some inspiration, read on to hear why we think this service is so important…

Health Trainers: we give you extra!

The Health Trainer service isn’t just about weight management; it’s a long term, preventative service. Health Trainers help people to make lifestyle changes that have far-reaching consequences and so reduce the impact on other services.

Health Trainer Wayne visiting a local homeless hostel last month
In the last year, our Health Trainers have supported more than 2,000 people to increase their physical activity and to eat more healthily. But they’ve also helped hundreds of people to learn how to budget and to learn how to cook. They’ve helped people who were at risk of diabetes, or high blood pressure, to reduce their risk in the long term. They’ve set up group activities – which increase physical activity and reduce social isolation – and signposted people to many more. They’ve even helped people with housing issues, benefits claims and access to food parcels; issues that aren’t medical but nevertheless have a big impact on health.

Like all of Gateway’s services, our Health Trainers are an adaptable, flexible team. They offer home visits and phone support as well as community consultations. They respond to need as it happens and they put their wide network of contacts and skills to good use. They offer practical advice, but they also offer time, and someone to talk to.

More than 40% of the people Gateway Health Trainers have supported in the last year are from vulnerable groups, such as older people, people with mental health issues, and people who have an issue with substance misuse. And around 65% of Health Trainer clients are from deprived areas of the city. We know that people in these groups are much less likely to access resources on their own, which is why access to a Health Trainer is so vital: many of the people we work with would not otherwise receive any ongoing support at all.

Please help us to show why the service should stay.

Not just a Fun Run – a day out with a difference!

Click the poster to view full size
Click the poster to view full size

This year we’re holding a Fun Run with a difference – a Free Community Fun Day for all the family!

DATE: Saturday 23rd July 2016
TIME: 10:30am – 13:00pm (but please arrive early to register and warm up)
LOCATION: The Bandstand, Cannon Hill Park, B13 8RD

We’re still inviting people to run or walk the 5km route, with the support of our Health Trainers, but this year there will be a lot more activities on offer too.

Why are we changing the focus of the day?

All of Gateway’s services (Health Trainers, Lighten Up, Gateway Healthy Futures, Pre Diabetes and the Pregnancy Outreach Worker Service) have an impact on the whole family, and their work isn’t just about healthy eating and exercise – it’s about leading a happier life. A lot of the people we work with are looking for more reasons to get out and about and meet more people, so we’re hoping that a Community Fun Day will give everyone that opportunity.

Health Trainers preparing to marshal last year's Fun Run
Health Trainers preparing to marshal a previous Fun Run

As well as the fun warm-ups and the 5km run (or walk, or stroll…) we’ll have a snack bar serving healthy snacks and refreshments, and some new activities: children’s races and games, story-telling from our very own Jane, and face painting by Sara. Of course, the activities are aimed at kids, but adults are very welcome to join in too!

We hope that a shared day out will be fun for everyone, and we look forward to seeing some new faces, as well as those of you who enjoy this day out every year. Everyone is welcome, and you don’t have to be a client of Gateway to get on board. Just give us a ring on 0121 456 7820 to register your interest and get your name down for a free snack bag!

Whether you want to beat your personal best at the 5km, find out more about our services, or just meet some new people and maybe make a few friends in an informal atmosphere, we’d love to see you.

Health Trainers go above and beyond

When you hear the term Health Trainer, you might think of the work they do to support people to diet and get down to the gym.

Health Trainers Josh and WayneBut a Health Trainer’s work isn’t all about healthy eating and exercise. Health Trainers, like all of our services, support the whole person.

We know that people who are in debt or worrying about their housing are less likely to stop smoking or to start eating well. Once someone feels like their life is on a more even keel, however, they are more likely to become physically healthier.

So, for us, it’s important that Health Trainers look at all the issues that their clients face and support them with any changes they want to make. This might mean signposting someone to another agency for help with substance misuse, finances, domestic abuse or housing; or it might mean giving them the opportunity to find – and the confidence to join – community groups or classes.

Health Trainers, like all Gateway’s staff, are trained extensively to equip clients with the latest information on, for example, changes to the benefits system and other social issues that could affect them.

They’re also experts in behavioural change, and the principles of behaviour change apply across the board – so seeing a Health Trainer, and learning how to recognise patterns of unhelpful behaviour, can have a positive impact on all areas of a person’s life.

And, of course, being part of Gateway means that Health Trainers have access to a huge knowledge base and network. So although they can’t be experts in everything, they are experts in finding someone who is!

In some cases Health Trainers get involved with organising groups, classes and events themselves. Just this week we received a letter from Pauline at the Long Term Conditions group that we help to run:

“…we would not have been able to continue with the group meetings without Gateway’s help. All the members of our small committee have long term health conditions and, as each year passes, we depend more and more on Gateway to expertly manage our budget, make all the arrangements for our speakers, catering and venue, arrange transport for those who need it and generally and enthusiastically make tea, answer questions, assist the less able with their lunch and much more………and all with a smile. They also help us to complete the CCG forms and signpost us to services that can help with specific problems… well as encouraging those who are able to go to the meetings that enable us to contribute our opinions (and needs) on health and social services matters.”

Wellbeing Advisor Scheme

One way in which we are currently building on the work that Health Trainers do, and evolving the service, is via a new Wellbeing Advisor scheme.

This is a pilot we set up with a group of nine Northfield Practices within Cross City CCG who form the Northfield Alliance.

All the practices have a Health Trainer assigned to them, so they’re already familiar with the service, but one practice and GP in particular, Dr Peter Arora from Jiggins Lane Surgery, wanted a service that also met the needs of patients who were presenting with an increasing range of social issues, including debt, caring responsibilities, housing problems and social isolation.

So we met with Dr Arora and our Health Trainer Commissioner, Elaine George, to agree how we might be able to support clients, and what sort of referral pathway would work best.

Now, GPs and other practice staff at Northfield Alliance practices directly refer to Health Trainers as before, but the referral form lists any additional social issues and Gateway effectively takes responsibility for that client and any interaction or engagement they have with other agencies.

walkingOur main partner in the scheme is Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) and in agreeing to be referred to the scheme, patients agree to a referral to both Health Trainers and CAB. Obviously for some people, their social issue takes precedence and in those cases we refer them to CAB initially, but then follow up at a later date to establish if they are at the point at which they’d like to work with a Health Trainer for lifestyle support.

While CAB are the main partner, Health Trainers also direct people to other agencies, such as our own Befriending Service, and of course through setting up group activities themselves such as EXTEND classes, Long Term Conditions groups, and walking groups.

Being able to support the whole person, and provide behaviour change tools to influence all aspects of their life, from health, to wellbeing via finance and housing means, we believe, more sustainable results for that person, less pressure on services such as GP, Social Services, DWP etc and a happier, healthier population.