Author: Katherine Hewitt

Covid-19: support for groups in the Edgbaston constituency

Recently, Gateway and Age UK Birmingham were appointed to lead the Edgbaston Neighbourhood Network Scheme (NNS).

We hoped to announce the launch of Edgbaston NNS this week, but of course, current events have overtaken us. Instead of a launch event, we are diving straight into support for community groups in the area.

The Council and BVSC (Birmingham Voluntary Services Council) have asked us to focus purely on how organisations in the Edgbaston constituency are responding to Covid-19 and how we can provide the necessary support to those who need it.

What is a Neighbourhood Network Scheme?

Neighbourhood Network Schemes are designed to support older people in Birmingham to connect with individuals, groups, organisations, activities, services and places in their local neighbourhood.

As part of Birmingham City Council’s new community social work model they are constituency based, so the Edgbaston NNS covers the areas of Edgbaston, Harborne, Quinton, Bartley Green, Shenley and Weoley Castle.

At the moment, however, every NNS in Birmingham is focusing on support for community organisations as we all adjust to events relating to the coronavirus and the resulting isolation.

How is your group managing?

To help us build up a picture of what’s already happening and what more may be possible, we are asking community organisations and groups in the areas of Edgbaston, Harborne, Quinton, Bartley Green, Shenley and Weoley Castle to get in touch with us by email or phone (details below) and let us know the following:

  • Has your group had to close or otherwise change in terms of what you normally do? We know most meetings have been suspended, so how has this affected you?
  • Is your group in a position to offer help? Let us know if you are doing something, planning to do something, or are willing to do something to help with the response.
  • If you’re not in a position to help, do you have any worries? Are you concerned about members of your group and how they may be coping?

It’s clear that a lot of work is already underway locally to ensure that vulnerable people, and those made vulnerable by this situation, get the help they need. We are here to build on this by coordinating, and potentially resourcing, support.

Over the next few weeks, Gateway and Age UK Birmingham, working together as Edgbaston NNS, will be:

  • Continuing to contact existing groups to find out your approach to the Covid-19 response
  • Monitoring new offers of Covid-19 support
  • Providing guidance and support to groups which are providing Covid-19 assistance
  • Connecting groups which are providing Covid-19 support to ensure they work together, maximise reach, avoid duplication and fill in gaps

If you run a community group in the Edgbaston constituency, contact Katherine at Gateway Family Services via email: k.hewitt@gatewayfs.org, or phone: 0121 456 7820, to let us know how we can help.

Coronavirus update

Given the most recent government advice, and for the wellbeing of our staff and the people we work with, we are moving towards home working over the next couple of days. However, all of our services are still running, and you should continue to contact us in the usual way.

Our outreach services — including the Solihull Lifestyle Service and Social Prescribing Link Workers — are continuing to take referrals and to support people over the phone and via email. If you would like to refer into these services you can, and if you are currently receiving support, you will continue to do so, albeit remotely.

All face-to-face group activities have been suspended, so the MVP meeting scheduled for 26th March will not take place and the Patient Health Forum is not currently running.

Solihull contact information

For the Solihull Lifestyle Service, including the Solihull Stop Smoking Service, please call free on 0800 599 9880 and you will be put through to an adviser as usual. We are still taking new clients and referrals.

Other contact information

For other queries about any other services, or for general information about Gateway Family Services, please call our Birmingham number which is 0121 456 7820.

Take part in the Birmingham Food Conversation

Are you an expectant parent, or have you or your partner given birth within the last three months?

We’re looking for recent parents, or parents-to-be, to take part in a focus group about food and nutrition.

This is the second event we’re running as part of the “Birmingham Food Conversation”. The Birmingham Food Conversation is helping to shape a better food environment for citizens in Birmingham, so we’ll be talking about your thoughts on food and the food choices you make, and feeding that back as part of the wider conversation.

  • Parents can attend with children
  • Parking is available on site, and travel expenses will be reimbursed
  • Light refreshments will be provided
  • Each participant will receive a Love2Shop voucher worth £10, as a thank you
WHEN? Tuesday 7th January 2020, 10.30am-12.30pm

WHERE? Gateway offices, 6th floor, Birmingham Chamber of Commerce building, 75 Harborne Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 3DH (near Five Ways island/Morrisons)

For more information, or to confirm your attendance, please contact Reshma on r.chudasama@gatewayfs.org, or call 0121 456 7820.

The 12 Days of Gateway

Wishing all our friends, partners and colleagues a very happy Christmas and best wishes for 2020.

Our Christmas card this year includes just a few of the things the Gateway team got up to over the last year. We present to you: the 12 Days of Gateway!

(You can click on the image to view a larger version.)

Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Trust CEO Richard Kirby has his blood pressure checked by Gateway Health Adviser Wayne Price

Building happier and healthier teams

We’ve been running Workplace Wellbeing services for a couple of years now, but right now we’re delivering one of our largest Workplace Wellbeing commissions yet: a series of events for Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Trust.

Gateway’s Wellbeing Advisers and Trainers have been working in a number of locations around the city, delivering one-to-one advice sessions and group workshops to several different NHS divisions, and have been working with hundreds of people.

Like all our Workplace Wellbeing activities, the work for the Trust is designed to get employees thinking about their own health and actively managing their own wellbeing; in this case activities are covering topics like eating healthily, managing stress and getting a good night’s sleep. We’ve designed the programme in collaboration with the Trust to ensure that each activity is based on the wellbeing needs that staff have identified themselves.

The numbers at a glance

There are a few more events left in our schedule for the Trust, but we’ve already engaged hundreds of people, up to senior management level, across six venues. For this piece of work so far:

  • 160 people have received a mini health check (blood pressure and BMI taken, followed by personalised advice)
  • 82 people have attended stress management workshops
  • 33 people have attended mindfulness workshops
  • 30 people have attended resilience training
  • more than 100 people have received advice and taken leaflets from our information stands

We also ran some half-day “taster events” where people could try out short sessions of activities like Tai Chi and guided meditation, and there was good attendance at these, too.

“Thank you to all your team. The day and the afternoon sessions evaluated really well.”
— Richard French-Lowe, Senior Consultant (Organisation Development), Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Trust

Why commission a workplace wellbeing service?

Structured support and simple, practical advice from professional health facilitators can help employees to understand how work and health is intrinsically linked, and to create a happier and healthier workforce. Educating and supporting staff to manage their wellbeing has been shown to:

  • Reduce absences and sickness levels
  • Reduce risk before illness occurs
  • Improve staff retention
  • Improve motivation
  • Improve productivity

Your organisation or business can choose from a range of workforce wellbeing packages, including individual one-to-one support, group sessions and team workshops. We’ll work with you to come up with a bespoke plan that will address your staff’s needs. Topics available for sessions, workshops and activities include:

  • Healthy eating
  • Physical activity, included seated exercise
  • Stress management and resilience
  • Mindfulness
  • Better sleep
  • Smoking cessation
  • Alcohol awareness, including “mocktail” recipes
  • Blood pressure tests
  • BMI checks

If you’d like to commission Gateway’s health advisers to come and deliver Workplace Wellbeing events at your place of work, please contact Katherine on 0121 456 7820, or email k.hewitt@gatewayfs.org.

Caring for our carers – an award-winning strategy

Last week we were very pleased to find out we’ve won a top prize for supporting our staff in caring roles.

The Carer Friendly Business Awards Birmingham are part of the Working for Carers programme by Forward Carers, an organisation developed to make a real difference to the lives of people in carer roles, and Gateway won first prize in the Working for Carers Award category.

The judges were impressed by the flexibility we offer to staff who also have caring responsibilities, including adapting our HR policies to allow for people who may need extra support.

Caring for carers

We have always prided ourselves on being a caring, supportive employer, and our employees are a diverse mix of people with a range of responsibilities outside work. Work and home are intrinsically linked, so we aim to provide a considerate environment where staff can be open about their needs, including regular meetings with line managers, plenty of frank, honest conversation, and a willingness to look at a range of solutions.

Because of this, our working and employment policies have always been flexible, but since joining the Forward Carers scheme as a Working For Carers accredited employer in January, we have reviewed and improved them even more.

We based the following changes on conversations with the carers we employ:

  • At point of employment we now directly ask if the person has caring responsibilities. If they have, we discuss and implement a plan which is then regularly reviewed.
  • Carers told us practical support is often most helpful, so we encourage staff to tell their immediate colleagues they have caring responsibilities. We have found that colleagues are keen to help, supporting them through the common peaks and troughs of caring.
  • Carers also talked about the importance of maintaining their health and wellbeing, so as well as making sure everyone has the opportunity to take part in our internal workplace wellbeing activities, we also encourage carers to be assessed and take up any offers they might be entitled to.

“Worthy winners”

Gateway’s CEO Katherine and Chair Paul with the other Carer Friendly Business Award winners

One of the judges on the Working for Carers Award panel was Councillor Mary Locke. She said: “It was clear from the award entry that Gateway Family Services recognises that carers make up a very important part of the community and they need extra support if they are to continue working, alongside their other responsibilities.

“The team have worked hard to create a working environment which is supporting their staff, also in a carer role outside of the office. The judges were also impressed at how staff are being encouraged to be friendly, open and understanding, which can be hugely beneficial for anyone who is starting to feel isolated or overwhelmed in their role as a carer.

“We thought they were all worthy winners, but Gateway Family Services stood out for all of us.”

Disruption to phone lines Thursday 12th Sept.

We’re moving offices on Thursday so from 12pm we will be without phone lines but we hope we’ll be back up and running again within a few hours and certainly by the end of the afternoon. You can still email us info@gatewayfs.org and if you have any individual staff members mobile numbers please continue to use as normal as these will be unaffected.  All should be back to normal on Friday.

We’re crowdfunding for Healthy Futures

Ralph, Wellbeing Navigator
Ralph, a Healthy Futures Wellbeing Navigator

You might already know that our Social Prescribing service, Healthy Futures, had to stop taking referrals at the end of last year, due to lack of funds. You might also know that Healthy Futures is desperately needed in Birmingham. People who need support are relying on their GP or local A&E because they don’t know where else to go.

But did you know that if all of our Twitter followers chipped in with a tenner, we could support at least ten people for another year?

So we’re asking for your help.

In the next few weeks, we’re going to be launching a crowdfunding campaign. We’re hoping to raise £7000, which would allow our Healthy Futures Wellbeing Navigators to support more than ten people for a period of about twelve months.

For now, we’re asking people to sign up to the Gateway Healthy Futures mailing list, and to help spread the word. Then, when our crowdfunding campaign is about to launch, we’ll drop you a line.

sign up for crowdfunder info

A Healthy Futures success story: Royin

“I have moved forward in the last year more than I did in seven years. And it’s all because of you.”

Last year, one of our Healthy Futures clients was Royin, filmed here talking to his Wellbeing Navigator Ralph.

When Royin was two years old, he fell down the stairs and suffered a brain injury which caused life-changing disabilities. Despite doctors’ predictions that he would never be able to work, Royin went on to get a degree and a career in senior management.

But seven years ago, things started to go wrong…

Announcing a new Integrated Lifestyle Service for Solihull

We’re really pleased to announce that Gateway Family Services has been awarded the contract to provide Solihull’s Integrated Lifestyle Service for a minimum of three years from April 2019.

Gateway will be working with a number of partners to deliver a range of core lifestyle services to communities in Solihull, including health checks, weight management, smoking cessation, men’s health and health psychology.

These lifestyle services make up a significant part of Solihull’s new community wellbeing service: a broader partnership of voluntary and community organisations working together to improve the lives of Solihull residents. The new approach will promote self-care and independence, making it easier for people in Solihull to find information and advice, as well as providing specialist support for those who need it.

Expertise

We are delighted that Solihull Council has chosen Gateway to lead the Integrated Lifestyle Service, an important part of the borough’s new community wellbeing service.

Some of Gateway’s Health and Wellbeing facilitators

In doing so, we will be drawing upon our vast experience and years of expertise delivering health and wellbeing services like Health Trainers and Solihull Lighten Up. Since 2015, Solihull Lighten Up has helped more than 3,000 people with a range of needs – sometimes complex – to lose weight and make major lifestyle changes.

And our delivery of the Solihull Integrated Lifestyle Service will perfectly complement Gateway’s other services, like our Workplace Wellbeing services, health and wellbeing training courses, the Birmingham and Solihull Maternity Voices Partnership (BSol MVP) and the work our Peer Educators do with young people (Straight Talking).

As health and wellbeing experts, working in the local community for more than thirteen years, we know that the accessible, community-based approach that Solihull Council has chosen will be most beneficial for people’s health.

We’re looking forward to working with our new partners to deliver a top class service and supporting thousands more people in Solihull to a healthier lifestyle.

Healthy Futures Practice Navigator at work

What’s the future for Healthy Futures?

Unfortunately, we’ve had to stop taking referrals to our social prescribing service Healthy Futures again, leaving dozens of vulnerable people in Birmingham without support. Right now, we simply don’t have the money to continue.

Back in February, we announced that we would be continuing to fund the service using our own savings. At the time, we knew there was a risk we wouldn’t secure external funding before the allocated reserves ran out. Now, sadly, that risk has become a reality. We’ve had to stop taking referrals and our Wellbeing Navigators have spent the last two months winding down people’s support.

How Healthy Futures works

Margaret, Healthy Futures Wellbeing Navigator
Margaret, Healthy Futures Wellbeing Navigator

We have two Healthy Futures outreach workers, or Wellbeing Navigators: Ralph and Margaret, who work with people who’ve been referred by their GP. We work in partnership with SDSMyHealthcare, a consortium of GPs in Birmingham, and receive referrals from them and other organisations in the area.

Ralph, Healthy Futures Wellbeing Navigator
Ralph, Healthy Futures Wellbeing Navigator

Put bluntly, Healthy Futures clients are usually “frequent flyers” at their GP surgery — but it’s not medical help they need, it’s social.

When someone is referred into the service, Ralph or Margaret will go out to visit them and find out what they need.

Issues they support people with include housing (many are in hostels or temporary accommodation), financial hardship (many are entitled to benefits but are not receiving them, or have difficulty managing them), alcohol or substance misuse, and ongoing mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Some just need a bit of direction to help them start forming their own friendships and networks. The support given is practical, emotional and, importantly, builds people’s independence.

Here are some examples of the feedback we’ve had from Healthy Futures clients in just the last six weeks.

Judith* is in her 50s and unemployed:

I feel more positive and less confused about my benefits now, thanks for calling them today for me, and helping to sort it and update things with them. I feel like I have my mojo back. I think walking more is helping me too, and your support.

James* is in his 40s and has seen a few support workers over the years. He said to Ralph:

I have had a few issues and problems with support workers in the past, even still these days, but not with you. You don’t judge me, you listen to me, and I know how much you really want to help me. I can see that you really care.

Laura* is a mum in her 30s. She works full time but she and her child have been living in temporary accommodation:

I will look forward to my appointment with [the outreach worker] at Anawim [women’s centre], thanks so much for referring me to her, and telling me more about the support they provide. I am sure they will be of great help to me, like you. I am feeling upbeat.

Cath* is in her 50s and currently unable to work due to her depression:

Thanks so much, I really do feel the need to move on in my life now to look at volunteering and work, either temporary or otherwise. It’s thanks to you I feel like that. You have been so patient and supportive.

We know there is huge demand for the service; since February we have a steady stream of referrals from GPs.

And we know that the service works: an official study carried out in 2017 found that Healthy Futures is a cost-effective way to reduce the time people spend with their GP (when a social intervention is more appropriate), and significantly increases people’s self-reliance and self-care.

But, despite searching and applying for funding from many sources, we haven’t yet been able to secure any external funding and, unfortunately, we just can’t continue under our own steam.

A country in crisis?

Over the last year we’ve applied for many bids and tenders, and there are more in the pipeline, but haven’t won any funding for Healthy Futures so far. Occasionally we have been pipped to the post by larger organisations or partnerships whose reputation will allow them to reach more people — dare we say, it seems that quantity is sometimes given priority over quality.

We’ve even looked at crowdfunding — asking members of the public to donate — but really, should this be necessary?

Of course we understand that not every service can be funded, but it’s clear that more and more money is being needed across the third sector. Feedback tells us that every social fund we apply for is massively oversubscribed; for example, the Challenge Fund told us they had received more than twice as many applications as they’d been expecting. Building Connections told us they had a £9m budget but if they had funded everyone who applied they would have needed a £191m budget.

It feels like the country is in crisis when it comes to social support. It’s frustrating to watch and, believe us, even more frustrating to experience.

Watch the video

Watch the video below to find out how Margaret recently helped someone who had had to move house because of ill health, but found herself socially isolated in an area she didn’t know.

*names have been changed