Author: Michelle Smitten

New date announced for RSPH Level 2 Award in Understanding Health Improvement course

PLEASE NOTE: THIS COURSE WAS POSTPONED DUE TO THE SNOW.
NEW DATE: 8TH JANUARY 2018.

As an RSPH Approved Centre, we are delivering the L2 Understanding Health Improvement qualification as a one-day course at our premises in Edgbaston. The next course date will be Monday 11th December 2017 Monday 8th January 2018.

If your pharmacy is working towards becoming a Healthy Living Pharmacy, you’ll need to have at least one full-time member of staff who has qualified for a Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) Level 2 Award in Understanding Health Improvement.

But the qualification is also suitable for anyone who delivers one-to-one or group health interventions, for example Health Trainers, gym instructors, or Health Champions.

RSPH Understanding Health Improvement, Level 2

Next course date: Monday 11th December 2017 Monday 8th January 2018
Time: 9.30am – 5.00pm
Venue: Gateway Family Services
5th Floor, Chamber of Commerce
Harborne Road
Edgbaston
Birmingham
B15 3DH
Cost: £80+VAT
Book now: To book your place, please contact Michelle Smitten on 0121 456 7820, or email michelles@gatewayfs.org.

The objective of this qualification is to provide candidates with an understanding of the principles of promoting health and wellbeing, and to enable them to direct individuals towards further practical support in their efforts to attain a healthier lifestyle.

The qualification is for existing or aspiring health champions and volunteers who wish to improve the health and wellbeing of people in their local community by motivating and encouraging them to make positive lifestyle choices.

Community workers, health advisors, pharmacy assistants and anyone in the wider public health workforce will also benefit from this qualification.

This is a one day course with a multiple choice exam at the end.

For more information about this or any of the other courses we run, please contact Michelle Smitten on 0121 456 7820, or email michelles@gatewayfs.org.

Grant will help over 100 people improve their wellbeing

Thanks to a Discovery Grant from the Santander Foundation, we will be able to develop and deliver a new course this year – one that will help over 100 people in Birmingham to improve their mental health.

The course is designed around the “Five Ways to Wellbeing“, an evidence-based government strategy that sets out five simple actions a person can take to improve their wellbeing. The grant will allow us not only to develop the content for a five-session course, but to trial its delivery in eight venues around the city.

Mental wellbeing is a vital part of living well. This course is one that we have wanted to pilot for a while, so we’re really pleased to have been chosen to receive a grant that will help us to do this. The grant will help not only with research and development costs, but with practical costs too: things like training materials, room hire and the cost of a facilitator in each venue.

We’re already talking to a number of other local organisations about delivering the course to a range of people. As well as our community sector partners, we’re also speaking to employers because we feel this course could be really valuable in terms of encouraging healthier workforces. One place we’re looking to work is within the NHS; we think this could be a good way for the NHS to support the commitment made in its Five Year Forward View ‘to ensure the NHS as an employer sets a national example in the support it offers its own staff to stay healthy’.

The Gateway Five Ways to Wellbeing course

The course we’re developing will encourage participants to take part in activities based on the Five Ways to Wellbeing.

Like all of Gateway’s work, the content of each session will flexible, allowing participants to lead, and identifying and building on the strengths they already have.

The “five ways” are all simple suggestions – small steps that it will be easy to take – and based around self-awareness. By becoming more mindful of your own wellbeing, you can build confidence and resilience, and so reduce health risks.

“Be active” encourages physical activity because, put simply, exercise makes you feel better! The course will allow each group to tailor this step to their own mobility and fitness levels – so it could be anything from a ten minute stretch, or a walk in the park, to a bike ride or regular swim. As on our Pre-Diabetes courses, we’ll be encouraging people to decide as a group what activities they’d like to do – then we’ll help them to do it.

“Connect” will encourage participants to engage with the people around them. We’ll be looking at relationships and how to build them, whether that’s friends, family or neighbours. Gateway’s own staff and staff at the partner organisations will be able to direct people to activities in the area where they can meet likeminded people, and we’ll also be encouraging the people in the group to connect with each other to take part in future activities, if they want to.

“Give” is another way to create connections. After all, doing something for someone else is really rewarding, and it can be something as small as a smile! We’ll be looking at the ways in which people are already giving (whether they realise it or not) and how making some time to treat yourself can make it easier to do things for others. If people want to give more back to their communities, we may be able to put people in touch with volunteering opportunities, too.

“Keep learning” is all about challenging yourself to learn something new, or reconnecting with an old hobby or interest. Whether people want to learn to cook, learn a practical skill, or take on a new responsibility at home or work, we’ll be there to support them. We’ll be encouraging people to share their own skills and experiences with the others in the group and we’ll also be looking at other local activities and groups where people can try something new.

“Take notice” is probably the most important step for the people we will be working with. Becoming more aware of the world around you, and giving yourself time to reflect, is vital to your mental wellbeing. We’ll be encouraging people to take a little more notice of the little things, and to take time out for themselves, each day. So many of us complete our daily routines without taking much notice of nature or the changing seasons, but taking some time to reflect on the smallest experiences each day can help you to appreciate what matters to you.

We’re really pleased to have been chosen to receive a Santander Foundation Discovery Grant. Even the smallest funding awards – this one is £5000 – can make a huge difference to our work. We are looking forward to delivering this pilot course to at least 100 people, and hope that it will open the doors to allow us to support many more.

Could we deliver the Five Ways To Wellbeing course at your workplace? For more information, contact Michelle Smitten on 0121 456 7820.

Lessons learned from Pre-Diabetes referrals

The Pre-Diabetes Courses we run as part of the National Diabetes Prevention Programme have been running for over a year now. Interestingly, referrals to the course dropped (to almost unviable levels) and then rose again significantly during that time – but why? We thought we’d share some of the lessons we’ve learned about the referral process since we’ve been running the course.

During the Pre-Diabetes Course pilot period, which started in late 2015, patients came to us via a mailshot from their GP. When someone was diagnosed with Pre-Diabetes, they received a letter from their surgery, which included a leaflet from us explaining what the Gateway course offered, with contact details. If they wanted to go on the course, they called or emailed to sign up.

This worked really well. By March 2016, we’d received around 600 referrals, and had run over 30 courses, with a 92% retention rate. Feedback from patients was overwhelmingly positive. The success of our pilot, along with others, contributed to the programme being rolled out nationally.

A worrying change

However, things changed when we amended the referral process.

Under the new process, referrals came from people who had received an NHS Health Check. If a Health Check revealed Pre-Diabetes, GPs sent the patient’s details to us, and we called them on the phone to personally invite them onto the course. It sounded like a good idea.

But, despite the personal touch, the number of referrals dropped dramatically. Even worse, very few of the patients who’d agreed to go onto the course over the phone actually turned up on the day! The people who did come along were still achieving great results, so we knew the problem wasn’t with the course itself, but we were struggling to get enough people through the doors to make each course viable.

So we approached our commissioners (Birmingham South Central CCG) and worked with them to go back to mailshots. We picked up the cost of the leaflets and postage ourselves, and started working with GPs to start getting them sent out to patients again.

Back on track

Now – happily – the number of referrals is shooting up again. In just the last four weeks, we’ve run ten courses (with 15 people on each course) and more than 65 people are on the waiting list to go on a course in the next few weeks.

So why do the mailshots work so much better than a personal phonecall? We think it’s down to the following factors:

  • Awareness. Put simply, fewer people were hearing about the course. When we switched to the phone method, we were only passed the details of people who’d had a Health Check, rather than everyone who’d been diagnosed. Without leaflets, GPs were less likely to suggest the course to people, and we weren’t able to promote it as easily.
  • GPs’ authority. People take more notice of something when they hear it from their GP, so when the GPs sent our leaflet to their patients, it implied that the course was “approved”. When we contacted people ourselves – even though we were phoning people personally, telling them their GP had asked us to call, and allowing them to sign up there and then – it just didn’t hold the same weight.
  • Letting the patient lead. Perhaps counter-intuitively, requiring the patient to refer themselves turned out to be a lot more successful than phoning and asking them to sign up. Why? Well, we’ve said this before, but letting the client lead their own support is beneficial for everyone. Giving the patient the reins and allowing them to decide what action to take and when (rather than telling them what to do, and suggesting we know best) creates resilience and sustainability. In other words, those who make the decision to refer themselves to the Pre-Diabetes Course are much more likely to turn up, and much more likely to stay on track once they’ve joined.

The Gateway Pre-Diabetes Course – better than a handout!

Anyone can read about taking steps to reduce their HbA1c levels, but going on a course with other people is much more likely to make it happen.

Course attendees making healthy salsa!

The biggest difference is the social interaction. When people with similar conditions get together and start talking about their experiences, they receive extra benefits that they wouldn’t get from making changes on their own. They are happier to talk about things like weight loss and physical exercise without feeling judged, and they inspire each other.

We’ve seen people who meet on the course start their own walking groups, share healthy recipes and exercise tips, and start good habits that spread throughout whole families!

Learning is a lot more fun in a group, and the Gateway Pre-Diabetes Course includes many hands-on activities, like games and cooking sessions.

If you’ve been diagnosed with Pre-Diabetes and you’d like to take part in a Gateway Pre-Diabetes Course, call Gateway on 0121 456 7820 and ask to speak to someone from the Pre-Diabetes team.

Health Trainer Vacancies

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

 

Position Title:                       Health Trainer

Salary:                                    £16,399 – £17,868 (dependent on experience and qualifications)

Hours per week:                 Various (Full Time/ Job share/Part time hours considered)

Interested in improving the health and wellbeing of others? This role involves engaging with individuals from target groups to support them in learning how to make better health choices. You must have the natural ability to build effective relationships, be approachable and have an outgoing personality. You will already have some experience of supporting people and have excellent listening skills. Working across the city you must be flexible in your approach and have good planning and organisational skills.

 

Successful candidates will hold a Level 2 qualification in a related field and are required to undertake the City and Guilds Level 3 Health Trainer qualification (if not already obtained) along with additional training as required.

 

This post is subject to enhanced DBS disclosure, satisfactory references and occupational health clearance.

 

If you are interested please contact Marisol Daley – HR & Finance Administrator on Tel: 0121 4567820 or email: recruitment@gatewayfs.org, quoting reference number GW175 for an application pack

 

Closing date for applications is 5pm on Friday 16th December 2016.

 

health-trainer-job-description

 

Reducing risk: the Gateway Pre-Diabetes Course

The results are starting to come in from the first people to complete our Pre-Diabetes Course – and we’re hearing some brilliant success stories.

The most important results are the HbA1c levels, which signify whether a person is classed as being at risk of diabetes. A reading of under 42 mmol/mol is normal, but a reading of between 42 and 47 is classed as “pre-diabetic”.

We’re very pleased to see that 66% of the clients who’ve sent in results so far have reduced their HbA1c levels since starting the course nine months ago, to a point where they are no longer at risk of Type 2 Diabetes. This is tremendous news and a great indication of the hard work that everyone has been putting in.

A further 15% have reduced their HbA1c levels, but are currently still classed as “pre-diabetic”; that is, they are still at risk of becoming diabetic. However, everyone who’s been on the course is now armed with important information about the preventative action they can take, including healthy eating, physical activity, food preparation, and managing portion sizes.

The lifestyle changes made by our course attendees also means that many of them have lost weight. An amazing 71% of attendees for whom we have results have lost weight since starting the course. Of these, 14% are no longer “obese” and 17% are no longer “overweight”. One person has lost a spectacular 16kg (that’s more than two and a half stone!)

Roger’s Story

One course attendee who is definitely seeing the benefits of a healthier lifestyle is Roger Taft. Roger came to us in December with an HbA1c reading of 46, which put him at the top end of the “pre-diabetes” category. Roger had already made some changes on his own before being referred to Gateway – he’d started cutting down on snacks and had started riding a bike – but the course helped him to focus on the lifestyle changes that would reduce his diabetes risk.

You can hear Roger’s story in his own words, and find out just how much his life has changed, in the video below.

Gateway’s Pre-Diabetes Course is commissioned by Birmingham South Central CCG, which is a Demonstrator site for the National Diabetes Prevention Programme. The course is for people who have been referred by their doctor because they are at risk of becoming diabetic. It runs for nine months and is designed to get people thinking about diet and exercise, and making lifestyle changes that will help them to become healthier.

Pre-Diabetes Course: numbers stay up as blood sugar levels go down

Maypole Methodist Church Group made mango and avocado salsa!Our first Pre-Diabetes Course clients are now six months into the course, and are starting to see the results of their hard work.

We have been really pleased to hear that everyone who’s been back to the doctor to have their blood tested so far has seen an improvement in their HbA1c level (their level of glycated haemoglobin).

But that’s not all. A lot of our clients are losing weight, too – like Mick (pictured below) who’s lost two stone already!

Mick says:

It’s going well and I’m losing weight – 11 stone now down from 13. My trousers are all getting loose! I’m keeping control of my diet and exercising regularly.

Gateway’s Pre-Diabetes Course, which is commissioned by Birmingham South Central CCG who are a Demonstrator site for the National Diabetes Prevention Programme, is for people who have been referred by their doctor because they are at risk of becoming diabetic. The course, which runs for nine months, is designed to get people thinking about diet and exercise, and making lifestyle changes that will help them to become healthier.

Mick, on the left in this picture, has lost two stone since starting the course
Mick, on the left in this picture, has lost two stone since starting the course

Amongst other things, we show people what to look out for when shopping and cooking, and give them as much information as possible to help them make healthier choices.

It’s not just about getting people’s blood sugar levels dropping – although of course this is the result we’re most interested in – it’s about long term behaviour changes.

We have been targeted to work with 750 people during the pilot year, and 614 have already been referred. The retention rate is good, with 91% of patients attending at least five of the initial six weekly sessions.

And why do we think people are staying on the course? We think it’s because the sessions are interesting and very hands-on.

People in the Kings Norton groups decided they'd like to get active by going for walks together, so that's what they did! Thanks to Friends of Kings Norton Park for the photo.
People in the Kings Norton groups decided they’d like to get active by going for walks together, so that’s what they did! Thanks to Friends of Kings Norton Park for the photo.

We offer a range of practical activities, like cooking sessions (last week, Maypole Methodist Church Group 1 learned how to make a healthy mango and avocado salsa!) but we also let the groups themselves lead and suggest new activities.

For example, when clients from our Kings Norton groups suggested they’d like to start walking more, we supported them to set up a walking group in Kings Norton Park. They met a couple of weeks ago and had a great time, as you can see from the picture!

Feedback from clients suggests that meeting in a group, but with the addition of one-to-one support [from a para-professional], has been particularly helpful.

Here’s a selection of just some of the comments we’ve received from clients so far:

“The service was wonderful. I have learnt so much about my health. I found the one to one talks very helpful.”

“Meeting other people with the same goals has been great.”

“The group support is really good. Very enjoyable and informative – makes you really think.”

“This course has made me hopeful to remain healthy.”

And finally, we thought you’d like to hear from Yvonne, who kindly let us film her chatting about her experiences, back in [January], on the “first walk I’ve had in ages”!

A bowl of bran cereal

Patients at the Maypole take first steps towards diabetes prevention

This week we delivered the first of our pre-diabetes training sessions.

Susan Hannaby is leading the training sessions
Susan Hannaby is leading the training sessions

The programme has been commissioned by Birmingham South Central Clinical Commissioning Group so the first session was held in one of their surgeries, Maypole surgery in south Birmingham, with the support and help of surgery GPs.

The surgery sent a mailshot out to patients with pre-diabetes, and we were pleased to find it had a good response rate, with 29 patients expressing interest. So a session was held for the first 12 on Wednesday morning, at the surgery.

Pre-diabetes, also referred to as “borderline” diabetes, is when someone’s blood glucose (sugar) levels are above the normal range, but not high enough for them to be diagnosed as having diabetes. If someone’s blood sugar levels are consistently higher than normal then they may be at risk of Type 2 diabetes if they don’t take the preventative steps. It’s an important warning sign that lifestyle changes need to be made. The point of the course is to educate people about their condition and to get people taking steps towards making those changes.

The course is run over 13 sessions and looks at all sorts of preventative action, including healthy eating, physical activity, food preparation, and managing portion sizes. For this first session, Trainer Susan Hannaby (pictured) was joined by Health Trainer Josh and EAST Admin Assistant Jennie, who will be the main point of communication for the group.

The activities and topics covered are based on who is in the group – what their needs are and the issues they would like to focus on – so it’s a flexible format. The sessions will include a lot of group work and include practical, hands-on activities, but also some private one-to-one time for each patient.

A bowl of bran cerealSusan gave an example of the practical activities they did on Wednesday: “This week we looked at portion sizes – we got people to serve a ‘typical’ plate of food, then looked at what a serving actually is. We were all surprised at how small cereal portions are!

“We are also encouraging the group to work together and help each other. For example one woman said she used to walk a lot but had lost confidence after falling over. One of the men in the group had been planning to start walking more, but felt unmotivated on his own. So they have made plans to go walking together.”

The sessions are intensive to start with, with weekly sessions for six weeks, followed by monthly sessions for seven months. But the sessions aren’t necessarily based at the surgery – if the patients want to do a taster session of a physical activity, like yoga or ‘extend’ training, or just to go for a walk, then it’s easy to incorporate that into the timetable.

Susan said, “it was a really good first session and the group were really engaged. Everyone set themselves a goal, whether that was cutting down on sugar in their tea, reducing their alcohol intake or doing a certain amount of walking each week.  We’ve also started planning sessions for a second group at the Maypole.”

Future Sessions

The Maypole sessions are in their infancy, but we are also looking to do similar sessions in other areas, both within GP practices and at community venues, where we hope to complement services already delivered in those venues.

Gateway’s programme is a pilot, but it’s part of the National NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme, which is a joint initiative between NHS England, Public Health England (PHE) and Diabetes UK. The cost of Type 2 Diabetes in the UK is huge and the number of people with the disease is growing at a particularly high rate. The national programme aims to significantly reduce the five million people in England otherwise expected to have Type 2 Diabetes by 2025.

Pre-diabetes, and the prevention of Type 2 Diabetes, is something that we’ve had on our radar for a long time via our Health Trainer service, and we have been looking for a way to expand on this knowledge and formalise it for a while. We know through our other services that this kind of support – a personalised, intensive lifestyle change intervention – can work really well, so we’re very pleased to have the chance to make a difference, and we hope tow work with more GPs and patients in the near future.

A prestigious double award win for Gateway!

We are very proud to announce a double success this week. On Tuesday we won a Three Year Health and Wellbeing award from the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH). This meant we were put forward for the prestigious Health Ministers Award… and yesterday, we won that too!

The RSPH Three Year Health and Wellbeing Award

The RSPH Health and Wellbeing awards are open to all organisations that promote health and wellbeing as part of their role. The awards “recognise achievement in the development and implementation of health promotion and community wellbeing strategies and initiatives”.

Jane Piggott Smith (L) and Michelle Smitten (R) receive the RSPH Three Year Health and Wellbeing award from Lord Patel. (Photo: RSPH)
Jane Piggott Smith (L) and Michelle Smitten (R) receive the RSPH Three Year Health and Wellbeing award from Lord Patel. (Photo: RSPH)

Awards are given for one, two and three years, with the Three Year Award being the highest level. On Tuesday, Jane and I went to the RSPH Headquarters to accept a Three Year Award for Gateway’s contribution to tackling health inequalities of communities in Birmingham.

In announcing the Three Year Health and Wellbeing Award, RSPH commended Gateway for:

  • “…how the organisation encourages whole family responses to their messages; this approach has proven to be effective in reaching communities.
  • “…the excellent internal referral pathways allow an effective and efficient nurturing process for service users. People only leave the service when they are ready.”
  • “…the organisation’s capacity to develop services based on the experiences and needs of service users. For instance, the strategy for the compilation of clients’ feedback is accessible and innovative, facilitating the capture of users’ comments and feelings about the service they are receiving.
  • “…the organisation’s employment policies and process for favouring service users whom often are part of the most disadvantaged communities. The opportunities that those individuals receive equips them with transferable training skills which will support them for life.

The Public Health Minister’s Award

All organisations that achieved the highest level of the RSPH Award were considered for the Public Health Minister’s Award, which recognises organisations for “outstanding contributions to the public’s health”.

Katherine Hewitt (L) and Ann Forletta (R) receive the Health Minister's Award
Katherine Hewitt (L) and Ann Forletta (R) receive the Health Minister’s Award

The Health Minister’s Award was presented yesterday, and Gateway won jointly with The Big Life Group, a group of social businesses and charities based in Manchester. Both organisations won because we demonstrate “exceptional asset-based approaches to engage with communities and deliver real public health gains”.

As part of our application, we were asked to give an example of the way that we engage with communities. We used the example of Making Health Work, a project we ran in partnership with the Foyer Federation to get young people thinking about the ways in which work impacts on health and health impacts on work. Making Health Work, like all of our services, used Gateway’s extensive paraprofessional experience and innovative support tools – like our Impact Assessment App – to break down barriers and improve opportunities for the people we worked with.

We believe that Gateway’s success, across all our services, comes from the way we engage with clients. We often talk about people who are ‘hard to reach’, especially when we talk about projects like Making Health Work, which targeted younger people. But the fact is, many of the ‘hard to reach’ people have been in the system for years; they just haven’t yet been properly engaged. We use our experience and links to engage people in an innovative and (as our clients tell us) life changing way.

Jane Ellison MP, Minister for Public Health, said: “I am delighted to be able to award the second Public Health Minister’s Award jointly to The Big Life Group for Be Well Salford and Gateway Family Services for their Making Health Work Project in Birmingham. They are outstanding examples of how organisations, large and small, can improve the life chances of the people in their communities, through developing local skills, knowledge and networks to target interventions to where they are needed the most.”

Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, said: “We are delighted to once again partner with the Department of Health on the Public Health Minister’s Award to celebrate the inspirational work of these two organisations. They are exemplars of innovative, progressive programmes to improve the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities. I would like to wish both winners all the best as they continue delivering impressive public health outcomes, and hope they will inspire others to do likewise in future.”

On Wednesday this week, we’d just picked up the RSPH Three Year Award and we’d just heard the great news that we’d been selected to receive the Health Minister’s Award too. Here’s a short video to tell you more.

Newly-launched service will help people towards Healthy Futures

This week has seen the launch of our new “admissions avoidance” pilot project, now called Gateway Healthy Futures.

The Gateway Healthy Futures team L-R: Jennie Haines, EAST Administrator; Chere Bailey, Practice Navigator; Angela Allen, EAST Co-ordinator; Michelle Bluck, EAST Programme Manager; Lindsey Lamont, Practice Navigator; Arlene Lawrence, Practice Navigator
The Gateway Healthy Futures team L-R: Jennie Haines, EAST Administrator; Chere Bailey, Practice Navigator; Angela Allen, EAST Co-ordinator; Michelle Bluck, EAST Programme Manager; Lindsey Lamont, Practice Navigator; Arlene Lawrence, Practice Navigator. (Not pictured: Judith Randrasana)

As we explained in August in our blog post A New Avenue For Gateway, the new project is part of part of My Healthcare and it will tackle the thorny issue of patients repeatedly seeing their GP or going to A&E with issues that could be much better managed using social interventions – for example people who have social issues, or who are mismanaging long term conditions.

Gateway Healthy Futures takes two approaches, both of which have already been proven to work as part of Gateway’s current services:

1) Providing paraprofessional support for those with intensive needs and
2) Providing befriender support for those with lower level needs.

The paraprofessionals that will be working within the Healthy Futures service are known as Practice Navigators. Michelle Bluck, EAST Programme Manager, explains: “Gateway Healthy Futures Practice Navigators are similar to our established paraprofessional roles, like Health Trainers and Pregnancy Outreach Workers (POWs). It will be about them understanding what additional support needs to be put in place around the individual and knowing what is available locally that can be drawn in to plug the gaps.  It wont just be about signposting though, it will be about practically ensuring they’re accessing the help they need.  Like the other roles, they will be able to offer people personalised social support; helping them to navigate systems, registering them for new groups or sessions, or going with them to appointments.”

Meet the team

We now have four Practice Navigators in place, ready to work with patients:

Arlene comes to Gateway Healthy Futures from her role as a Gateway Volunteer Befriender – in fact you may remember her from a previous Friday story, Celebrating Our Befrienders, where we talked about her relationship with her client Jean.

Judith has been with Gateway for some time, too; she started as a Volunteer Befriender, moving on to become a Gateway Interpreter, and later trained in a healthcare role under our Training To Care programme, working with patients at a specialist stroke and brain injury rehabilitation centre.

Lindsey has been a Gateway POW for eight years, having started on the Community Family Workers course with Gateway in 2006.

Chere is new to Gateway but comes to us with a BA Hons in Social Policy and Social Care, as well as experience in working with people with dementia and their carers.

Our volunteers are overseen by a new EAST Co-ordinator, Angela, who also comes to Gateway Healthy Futures from the POW service. Like Lindsey, Angela started with Gateway on the Community Family Workers course in 2006.

EAST Programme Manager Michelle Bluck, who will be overseeing the Practice Navigators, has been with Gateway since its inception. She was instrumental in setting up the POW service and since then has run a number of programmes including setting up and running the Interpreters service and Training To Care.

All have been undergoing intensive training over the last few weeks and are raring to go. Their combined experience, buoyed by extra training, and with the backing of Gateway’s many years of experience providing high level one-to-one social support, puts them in the best possible place to help.

For phase one of the project, the Gateway Healthy Futures team will be working with the following surgeries:

my healthcare logoFrankley Health Centre
West Heath Surgery
Wychall Lane Surgery
Cofton Medical Centre
West Heath Primary Care Centre
Kings Norton Surgery
Woodland Road Surgery
Patients must be referred by their GP to access the service.

“I don’t know what I would have done without you…” – the importance of befrienders

paper-chain-peopleWe love to hear from the people we’ve worked with, especially when it’s to tell us how they are benefiting from our services. This week, our EAST Co-ordinator Sarah, who looks after our volunteers, received an email from one of her clients – someone she had paired with a Volunteer Befriender – that we want to share with you.

Our Volunteer Befrienders service, funded through Big Lottery Reaching Communities Fund, has been running for three years now. The concept is very simple: we pair up people who need some extra support with volunteers who want to help. In the last financial year (April 2014 – March 2015) our wonderful volunteer befrienders supported 238 clients for a total of 417 hours.

One of those clients was Tullia, who was paired with a volunteer befriender called Alex, and Tullia’s kindly given us permission to reproduce her email here:

Good morning Sarah,

Just a few words to thank Gateway Family Services for helping me in a difficult time of my life.

I came to live in Birmingham in January, forced by circumstances and health issues: my retirement age has been postponed by six years courtesy of the government, I found myself at the age of 60 in a unknown city, looking for a job, my husband needing both hips replaced.

Luckily you and Alex came to my rescue.

Alex has been very supportive and has helped me to gain more confidence with using a computer.

More important has been her cheerful presence once a week that galvanizes me into trying to be more positive and fight back this depression that has engulfed us after two very difficult years.

Alex is always smiling and very positive, and helps me at a time when I find myself unable to cope with everyday life.

Quite frankly I don’t know what I would have done without you guys.

Thank you.

Kind regards from Tullia

We asked Alex if she’d mind telling us a bit more about her work with Gateway, and in particular with Tullia. Alex said:

I came to Gateway not knowing how rewarding of an experience volunteering as a Befriender would be. In only six short months, Gateway has already given me so much, from training, to boosting my confidence, and the opportunity to face new experiences and challenges.

I have learned a lot, and I have felt appreciated as a volunteer. I have been given amazing support by Sarah, despite the thousand questions I ask her on a weekly basis (thank you Sarah!). And the on-call team has always made me feel safe and looked after while loneworking.

Tullia was my first client through Gateway, and I could not have asked for a better start. She has shown amazing strength, and continues to impress me with her willingness and determination to move forward. I don’t think she is aware of how much I’m learning from her.

I am humbled by my clients entrusting me with their obstacles, and allowing me to assist and support in overcoming them.

I would like to say a big thank you to Gateway and my clients.

Sarah says, “this is a great example of the work that all our Volunteer Befrienders do. The support is practical and emotional and, as Alex has shown, it’s often a two-way thing, with both parties getting a lot out of the relationship. We’d like to say a big thank you to all of our brilliant volunteers who’ve made the project such a success over the last three years.”

The Volunteer Befrienders programme in its current form is coming to an end, but we recognise how beneficial this model of service has been for everyone involved. So we will be continuing to take on Befrienders – training up volunteers and pairing them with people who need support – as part of our new work with My Healthcare, supporting people who have been referred by their GP. If you’d like to become a volunteer and offer emotional and social support to someone in your community, get in touch to find out more.