Lots of people use this time of year to come up with new year’s resolutions – goals for making changes to improve themselves – but most people find it easier to reach those goals with a bit of help.
Through our Pregnancy Outreach Workers, Health Trainers, Lighten Up advisors and our Employment Access Skills and Training team, Gateway helps people to make positive changes – and stick to their resolutions – all year round.
So here are some of the more popular resolutions that we hear every year – and some of the ways in which we’ve helped people with similar goals over the last year.
“I want to lose some weight”
Most of our Health Trainer clients, and all of our Lighten Up clients, join our service because they want to lose weight.
Our Health Trainers help people to lose weight with a tailored, personalised programme. They don’t recommend dieting; instead, they help people to make lifestyle changes that will go far beyond the few months they’re with the service.
Read some of the stories from Health Trainer clients like Derek (pictured), who lost weight with help from a Health Trainer last year, in Health Trainers: having a real impact.
The Lighten Up service helps people to lose weight by giving them free access to a slimming group for 12 weeks, then following up with regular phone contact, motivating them to keep up the good work.
Since we took over the service, we’ve seen hundreds of clients lose thousands of pounds in weight, but the most successful to date has been Linda Bartlett. Altogether, counting the weight lost before, during and after her time with Lighten Up, she’s managed to lose a whopping 11 stone.
“I want to get out of debt”
One of the biggest issues our pregnancy outreach workers (POWs) help with is finance management. So many of the families we work with are struggling due to the rising costs of living – not to mention the worry of preparing for an extra mouth to feed.
POWs help clients with some basic money management and budgeting techniques. If needed, they’ll make some of the more difficult phonecalls on a client’s behalf, as well as signposting them to specialist organisations.
In the summer last year, Sharon’s client Claire* said:
I’ve got no debts – Yay! Money Matters have set up payment plans, they’ve really helped me.
You’ve helped me with so much over the past few months. One thing in particular is budgeting, my debts are sorted and I have money in my account. I didn’t always need anything doing but having one-to-one adult conversation makes all the difference – it really does.
Maria recorded her client Saira* explaining how she and her husband had been able to start tackling their debts with the help of the POW service.
This blog post about welfare reforms, from the beginning of last year, explains why Gateway staff are in a good position to help people in this way:
We are in a unique position, our support staff go into people’s homes, they develop a strong bond with their clients and they are trusted – so who better to help? Over the coming weeks we will be ensuring all our staff have a sound basic understanding of the changes [to the benefits system] so they can start the conversation, many already help their clients look at basic budgeting so this is a very practical way of them identifying how the essentials will still be afforded.
The second step will be to effectively signpost people for further support. This is about knowing the best organisation to help that person with their specific needs. For example: benefits advice, financial guidance, debt management and how to manage on a low income. The quality and timeliness of advice will be vital so we are pleased to be a partner in the local bid to the Advice Transition Fund (led by Birmingham CAB) which looks at improving the co-ordination of advice in the city, recognising that the advice and guidance sector has already been harshly affected by cuts.
“I want to learn new skills/get a new job”
Helping people to get through the different stages they need to access their chosen career is one of the initial and key concepts of Gateway. We call it the skills escalator.
In November, we were thrilled to find out that two of our Pregnancy Outreach Workers have been accepted to begin degree courses in Nursing. For both Lynette and Farzana this has been a long term ambition and this is the culmination of a long journey.
We ran a training scheme in 2013 to give interpreters the opportunity to gain a level 2 OCN Community Interpreting qualification. The Community Interpreting Skills course was developed and adapted especially for them and the qualification allows them to work not just for us, but for other agencies and companies. The first trainees qualified in October and by December they were all working as interpreters in the community.
In a blog post from December, we spoke to newly qualified interpreters Paul and Nadine:
As part of his work with another agency, Paul already works with family solicitors around immigration issues, but this new qualification means he will be able to translate for a much wider client base. “It’s opened up a big world for me. I can take this certificate to many other types of agencies and departments. I’m interested in all the corners of life, so I’m especially keen to work with the Police and the UK Border Agency. I’m going to knock on every door!”
“I want to stop smoking”
In October (or Stoptober, as it is known to our Health Trainers!) we wrote a post about helping people to stop smoking. It’s a challenge, but it’s always on the agenda for Health Trainers and POWs.
Health Trainer Susan Bernard says, “Our job is to help people to make healthy lifestyle changes; to get into new and healthier habits. So we help people to plan ahead and get everything in place – mentally, emotionally and physically – for change.
“I want to meet new people”
2013 also saw the launch of our volunteer befrienders programme.
Volunteers from all walks of life are matched with a client who needs a bit of extra support; someone referred from other departments within Gateway – POWs, Health Trainers and Lighten Up – or via other routes, like partner organisations or GPs.
By March, eleven volunteers had at least one client of their own and were supporting their new friends in all sorts of ways:
Lorraine has been attending slimming classes with a client who didn’t feel confident going on her own. As well as providing some moral support she’s also helped her to start managing her finances a bit better. Just having someone who’s available to help with a little practical and emotional support can be a big boost.
Tareena helped her client to find alternative housing, as the conditions he was living in were very poor and he was being threatened by his neighbours. Together, they’ve visited Shelter, who found him a new place to live. Now he’s very happy – his new accommodation is warm and clean and he’s able to cook his own meals. This client has many health issues and, without support from people like Tareena, he might not have been able to set the wheels in motion to get the support he needed.
Read more about how volunteering is good for you in Volunteering – good for everyone.
“I want to do more exercise”
A big new year’s resolution for many people is to do more exercise. As well as the physical benefits, exercise is shown to have a beneficial effect on mental health and general wellbeing. So at Gateway, we enjoy finding new and interesting ways for people to get started … and to give people an incentive to carry on.
One of our favourite blog posts from last year came from our guest blogger Sharon, who took advantage of the bike hire scheme we originally initiated in 2012. Read what she had to say in Bike hire scheme – Sharon’s story.
And finally, Health Trainer Keiran took on a new kind of walking group in 2013 – a twenty minute “assisted gentle exercise programme”. In April, we blogged:
Overall, the assisted gentle exercise programme has been a great success. The participants have found benefits not only physically but also socially. All the walkers have spoken of a boost in confidence and happiness levels. The two minute video below shows the group describing what they’ve got out of the six week course – and admiring the views.
Happy New Year from everyone at Gateway. We’re looking forward to a great 2014.
*some names have been changed