Category: Events

Listening to Maternity Voices

The latest meeting of the Birmingham and Solihull Maternity Voices Partnership (MVP) took place on Thursday last week. Members of the public met up with midwives and other maternity professionals to talk about their experiences of the maternity system and discuss some of the latest developments.

MVPs are a way for service users to share their opinions of their local system and give direct feedback. It’s a way to give pregnant women, new parents and families a voice, and to give maternity professionals a “direct line” to the public, so they can test out new ideas and get feedback on recent changes. Gateway has been commissioned to organise and manage the Birmingham and Solihull MVP meetings, and part of this is to ensure they attract a good number and diverse range of participants.

The November meeting was at St Barnabas Church Centre in Erdington, and 13 service users came along, some with children, to talk to us and share their experiences.

MVP Co-ordinator Sharon Bartlett addresses the group
Mary Passant, Programme Manager for Bump, talked to us about giving women a ‘Single Point of Access’ with midwives as the first point of contact. Dr Trixie McAree, professor of midwivery and maternal health at Birmingham University helped us to facilitate the event, and also talked to us about the new Personal Maternity Care Budgets (PMCBs).

Sally Giddings, Deputy Head of Midwifery at Birmingham Women’s Hospital, gave us feedback on the 15 Steps For Maternity challenge that we did at the Women’s Hospital in July. After hearing what happened on our walkabout, the hospital have already made a number of little changes, which should help to make people’s first impressions even better.

MVP Co-ordinator Sharon said, “it was a really interesting and useful meeting. Because people were able to bring their children along, it meant that more people were able to attend — but it also made for a much more informal session, which was great. It made conversations a bit easier and encouraged people to speak up more and to ask more questions.”

After the event, service users completed anonymous feedback forms. Here are a few of the comments:

“Relaxed atmosphere to enable discussion. Great topics to discuss.”

“There was somewhere for the children to come along and play. Helps a lot in the case of childcare.”

“Candid discussion. I feel listened to and appreciated views.”

“I liked the open discussion which was accessible to all.”

Join us! MVP in the new year

The next MVP meeting will be in January. We’re very keen to get more people involved to give feedback from the service users’ perspective, so if you or your immediate family have had experience of the maternity system in the last couple of years, we’d love to hear from you. Mums, dads, partners and grandparents are all welcome and you can bring children to the events, too.

Also in the new year, we’ll be holding another “15 Steps For Maternity” Challenge, this time at Heartlands Hospital. Take a walk with us around the wards and give us your immediate impressions to feed back.

If you’d like to join us for the next meeting or the 15 Steps, give Sharon Bartlett a call on 0121 456 7820 or email her on s.bartlett@gatewayfs.org.

holding hands

Loneliness is bad for your health

Tracey Crouch MP
Tracey Crouch MP, Minister for Civil Society and “Minister for Loneliness”.

Did you know that being lonely is actually harmful to physical health?

Studies show that a lack of social relationships is a big health risk1. Researchers have found that it can be as big a mortality risk as smoking fifteen cigarettes a day!

Now, the government has decided that loneliness is a problem worth tackling. In January, Theresa May appointed Tracey Crouch to lead cross-government work on loneliness, to “shine a light on the issue” and “bring an end to the acceptance of loneliness for good”. And in April, this was followed up by the launch of the “Building Connections Fund”, aimed at supporting programmes that “bring people together”.

There’s no doubt that, in this age of austerity, the Minister for Loneliness has a big job on her hands. But we’re very glad that it has become a national talking point.

What are the risk factors for loneliness?

A recent report by the Office for National Statistics gives some food for thought. It identified three profiles of people at particular risk from loneliness:

  • Widowed older homeowners living alone with long-term health conditions.
  • Unmarried, middle-agers with long-term health conditions.
  • Younger renters with little trust and sense of belonging to their area.

Reducing social isolation in Birmingham

At Gateway we support people who fit all three of these profiles, as well as many of the other identifiers mentioned in the report, such as people with financial hardship, and people who don’t feel a connection to their neighbourhood.

Despite a lack of external funding, we are continuing to run the Healthy Futures service, which supports socially isolated people in Birmingham. GPs can refer anyone that needs non-medical help into the service, so that includes people who have issues around housing, alcohol, finances, benefits, and much more. Our Healthy Futures navigators offer a range of one-to-one help, whether that’s a cup of tea and a friendly chat to get through the day, or more complex support that requires a range of specialist help.

And for people with long term health conditions, we help to run a local Patients Health Forum. This group was set up to allow service users to give feedback on local health systems, but over the years it has also grown into quite a social club. So as well as helping with the practicalities, we make sure to really push the social side of things, making sure events are organised regularly and include food, entertainment, and plenty of time for people to chat. Most of the people who go to the Patient Health Forum fit one of the first two profiles mentioned above, and many of the forum members (or, sometimes, their carers) tell us that it provides them with vital social support.

Earlier this month, the Patient Health Forum took place in Stirchley, where we celebrated the 70th Anniversary of the NHS with entertainment from guest singer Reza, who got everyone moving.

At the first International Social Prescribing Research Conference, in June, Key Speaker Dr William Bird explained how loneliness leads to chronic stress which, via its effects on the endocrine and immune systems, enhances risk of long term conditions. He was keen to promote the concept of supporting people to find “greater value” – that is, not just telling them to do standard physical activity, but working with them to find their purpose.

And this is how we work at Gateway, because we can see that it gets results. In the case of Healthy Futures, as we explained in our own poster presentation at the conference:
Healthy Futures did not fall into the trap of “doing what’s best” for patients; generally the patients led the support. Gateway believes that asking someone what their priorities are, believing them, and working with them to build self-confidence and resilience creates a programme of support that is more successful and sustainable.

Connecting people

It’s one thing to find people to say hello to, but it’s quite another to feel “plugged in” – to feel part of something; to feel that you’re useful and that your contribution matters. Having things in common is a great starting point. That’s why we’re keen to make sure that all the services we deliver that involve groups of people – for example Solihull Lighten Up, Peer Educators and the Maternity Voices Partnership – work well as social groups, and we encourage people to stay in touch using WhatsApp or Facebook groups, too.

We’ve known for a long time that social isolation has a big impact on health and we’re very glad this is starting to be addressed at a national level. For our part, we will continue to help people to build stronger bonds with others through a range of tailored support.

References

1Stats taken from the following studies:

  • House JS, Landis KR, Umberson D (1988) Social relationships and health. Science 241: 540–545
  • Holt-Lunstad J, Smith TB, Layton JB (2010) Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review. PLoS Med 7(7): e1000316
  • Holt-Lunstad J, Smith TB, Baker M, Harris T, Stephenson D (2015) Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for mortality: a meta-analytic review. Perspect Psychol Sci. 10(2):227-37

Membership of the Patient Health Forum is open to anyone who lives in South Birmingham, or is registered with a South Birmingham GP, and lives with a long term health condition. If you’d like to get involved, give us a call on 0121 456 7820 and ask about the Patient Health Forum.

Gateway Health and Wellbeing team

Local businesses get a taste of new Workplace Wellbeing services

Margaret, Jemma and Reshma with the Smoothie BikeOn 19th July, we officially launched our Workplace Wellbeing services with a free Workplace Health Taster Day.

The hospitality suite at the Chamber of Commerce building became a “health centre” for the day, with free activities including blood pressure and BMI checks (with personalised advice based on the results), an introduction to Tai Chi, impairment goggles that highlight the effects of alcohol, and even a smoothie bike, creating pedal-powered healthy drinks!

Marri on a smoothie bike
Finance Administrator Marri pedalled for his smoothie in record time!

Representatives from more than 60 local employers — including most of the organisations based at the Chamber building, Morrisons supermarket, Newman University and the Chamber itself — came along. They received a range of free support and advice from our experienced health professionals, with many choosing to pop back throughout the day to get involved in as many different activities as possible.

For these employers and employees, the Taster Day was a chance to find out how small health changes and preventative checks could have a big impact on working life.

Educating and supporting staff to actively manage their wellbeing has been shown to reduce absences and sickness levels, and to improve staff retention, motivation and productivity. Our Health and Wellbeing Facilitators gave BMI and blood pressure checks, which can be a really important indicator of wider issues or underlying health problems. Activities like the smoothie bike and the impairment goggles are fun, but they also provoke some really interesting conversations about health and the impact of good and bad habits, which our Behaviour Change Advisers were on hand to facilitate.

A training opportunity for us

As well as promoting our Workplace Wellbeing services, and testing our expanded offer, the Taster Day was really useful for our staff to gain more experience working with people from the corporate sector. Although our Health and Wellbeing Facilitators have worked with thousands of individuals in local communities over the years, supporting people in the workplace is slightly different, so we’re keen to make sure our delivery of these new packages runs as smoothly as possible.

Attendees receive an introduction to Tai Chi
Attendees receive an introduction to Tai Chi
For example, time is much more of a factor when people have been sent by an employer to get a health check within work time, or are visiting in their lunch hour – but our Facilitators quickly got used to the time restrictions at the event. Thanks to their years of previous experience, they were able to complete the mini consultations efficiently, and to spot where the focus of their advice for each person needed to be almost immediately, whilst maintaining their friendly, personal approach.

Because people are referred to our Workplace Wellbeing services by their employer rather than their doctor, these corporate health interventions also have a very slightly different focus. Although Gateway staff still take a “whole person” approach, and work one-to-one with the individual to get a picture of their health, conversations about work need to come to the forefront, and all the advice is given in the context of the workplace.

Ready to work with workplaces

It was wonderful to see how well our staff worked together to create a fun but informative event, and we’d like to thank everyone that came along and helped us create such a buzzing atmosphere. Visitors told us they were inspired by what they’d learned, and were going back to work feeling motivated, which was great to hear! But not only did we have lots of fun, we’ll be able to use what we learned on the day to make future Workplace Wellbeing services even more useful.

If you’d like to find out more about Gateway Workplace Wellbeing packages, or to run a similar event at your workplace, take a look at our Workplace Wellbeing pages or give Jemma or Keith a call on 0121 456 7820.

Gateway’s donations “pad out” foodbank donations campaign

We were horrified to read recent research showing that one in ten girls aged 14-21 have been unable to afford sanitary products. So when we heard about the Birmingham Live “#BrumFeeds” campaign, we knew straight away how we wanted to help.

#BrumFeeds aimed to collect 100 tonnes of food for Trussell Trust foodbanks, by holding the biggest single food donation the city has ever seen. Last Friday, people were encouraged to donate at three city centre locations for “The Big Drop”.

Caroline and Debbie donate to BrumFeeds Big DropAt Gateway, we decided that our contribution should focus on sanitary products. After all, we know that people don’t usually give as many toiletries as they do tins of beans! So office staff held a donation drive in our office, and on Friday we donated hundreds of tampons and sanitary towels to the #BrumFeeds collection point in Victoria Square. You can watch Caroline and Debbie dropping them off in the video below.

We always knew Brummies were a generous lot, but we were pleased to see how many people donated to the campaign. Birmingham Live reported that over a tonne of donations were made in just a few hours! We hope that our donation helped a little bit, and perhaps even raised people’s awareness of the problem of period poverty.

What is Period Poverty?

Put simply, period poverty is the problem of being unable to afford sanitary products.

A January 2018 report from Plan International UK says, “Period poverty has previously been seen as an external issue affecting lower income countries. However, in the context of austerity and the rise of homelessness and foodbank use, combined with a lack of supportive and accessible menstrual health management education, it is also being experienced here in the UK.”

Plan International UK’s survey on menstruation found that one in 10 (10%) of girls have been unable to afford sanitary products. It also found that:

  • One in seven girls (15%) have also struggled to afford sanitary wear.
  • One in seven girls (14%) have had to ask to borrow sanitary wear from a friend due to affordability issues.
  • More than one in ten girls (12%) has had to improvise sanitary wear due to affordability issues.
  • One in five (19%) of girls have changed to a less suitable sanitary product due to cost.

In “I, Daniel Blake”, Katie is caught shoplifting sanitary products. Last year, Rightinfo.org reported that donations of sanitary products to foodbanks increased after the film’s release.
At Gateway, many of the people we work with are living with disadvantage. We know from our experiences with the Pregnancy Outreach Workers Service, and our current social prescribing service Healthy Futures, that women who are facing financial constraints will often go without themselves, so that their families can have food.

We fully support the efforts of charities like The Red Box Project, The Homeless Period and Bloody Good Period to try and dispel some of the myths and embarrassment surrounding periods, and to make tampons, towels and other related toiletries more accessible to everyone who needs them.

Why donate sanitary items to foodbanks?

We often refer people to Trussell Trust foodbanks, and we have our own small bank of food and toiletries for emergencies, but we know from experience that sanitary products are just not something people normally give when they donate to foodbanks.

Indeed, Trussell Trust includes sanitary products in its list of non-food donation items, saying “It’s natural that the first thing anyone thinks to donate to a foodbank is food, but toiletries and hygiene products are also extremely important. Alongside the standard food parcel, foodbanks try to provide […] essential non-food items to adults and children in crisis, helping them maintain dignity and feel human again.”

(“I, Daniel Blake” screenshot: IFC films via rightsinfo.org)

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.

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 info@gatewayfs.org. 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!

Introducing our new brand and logo

As you may have noticed, Gateway Family Services has a new logo. In fact, we’ve got a whole new brand – so we thought it might be nice to give you a peek behind the scenes at the changes.

When Gateway was founded, over ten years ago, a standalone logo was created for use on all our marketing literature. At the same time, we created our Core Values, Aims and Objectives – and these remain at the heart of everything we do. But what we didn’t do at the time was to bring these together as part of a consistent overall “brand”. We have strong professional values, and very high standards for all of our work, but for many years, our marketing materials haven’t really matched those high standards.

The Gateway logo has been simplified and modernised

So, over the last few months, we have been working with designer and branding expert Lisa Barratt to understand and formalise the “Gateway brand”. This didn’t just mean creating a new logo, but looking at everything we put out into the wider world: making sure our public face reflects our values and the high standards of professionalism that we have internally, and giving everything a consistent, well thought-out look and feel.

Lisa worked closely with a panel of Gateway staff to find out everything about the way we work, and to make sure the new branding would be a realistic representation of our organisation.

Photographer David Rann did a great job of capturing moments between our staff and the people they support

Lisa recognised that, for Gateway, our brand is our people. So wherever possible, our marketing literature now uses our own photos showing staff and the people they work with in real situations. The new photos (taken by David Rann) show Gateway as we see ourselves – positive, professional, friendly and honest, with an emphasis on relationships and community.

Our “tone of voice” – the voice we use online and in printed materials – is key, so we’ve set out some formal rules for this too, based on the way our staff already communicate with people. Gateway is friendly, open and accessible, so our leaflets and posters will be written to speak directly to the people we support. All our marketing and social media will use a conversational, but professional, tone.

The new colour scheme brings services together

The new logo is a simplified, modernised version of the previous one, including the recognisable “G” symbol. But we now have a wider colour palette to use alongside the main logo’s blue and gold. We’ve assigned a specific colour to each service: pink for POWS, teal for Health Trainers, light blue for Lighten Up, and a pale purple for other services.

One of the things that staff really wanted was for the different services to feel more aligned with each other and with the Gateway name; we hope that the new colour palette and templates will not only provide consistency, but help people to recognise that each service is part of the Gateway whole.

We launched the new brand internally last week – with a quiz and some nibbles!

Working with staff to refresh the brand means we’ve also been able to pick up on some other useful ideas and requests from staff. In particular, we’re creating some specially-designed “congratulations” and “sorry I missed you” cards for support workers to give to clients.

We’ll also be publishing some new hand-outs focusing on some of our areas of expertise, including things like breastfeeding advice and healthy recipe suggestions. Our staff are full of knowledge, so it would be a shame not to share it more!

We hope you’ll enjoy spotting the new Gateway logo and marketing materials as they make their way out into the wider world.

POWS dad with baby

Thank you for helping us to help others this Christmas

This week we’ve been giving out Christmas Hampers to some of the most vulnerable people we work with.

Thanks to a record number of donations, we’ve been able to put together more parcels than previous years, including some for the homeless people that we met during the Love Your Neighbour “Week of Kindness” event a few weeks ago, who are sleeping in the streets around our offices.

We’re also passing some of the donations on to other local organisations, such as the hostel we visited during the Week of Kindness, and our friends at SIFA Fireside.

We’ve even been able to save up some food and toiletries so that we can give them to people who need them in the coming months because – as this year has really shown us – people need help all year round, not just at Christmas.

Who do we work with?

Two of our outreach services, Gateway Healthy Futures and the Pregnancy Outreach Workers Service (POWS), work with people who are in the most “at risk” categories – and each week our staff are seeing more and more people in dire need of basic essentials.

POWS works with pregnant women who usually have a low medical risk and high social risk, dealing with issues including temporary accommodation, homelessness, substance misuse, domestic abuse, offending, newly arrived communities, poor mental health and safeguarding.

Gateway Healthy Futures client The Gateway Healthy Futures service provides a one-stop-shop for people with a wide range of social needs. GPs can refer anyone that needs non-medical help, so that includes people who have issues around things like housing, alcohol, finances, mental health, benefits, social isolation, and much more. Our Practice Navigators provide reassurance and a point of contact for the people they work with, as well as vital practical support.

We’ve also opened up the food and baby bank to our Health Trainers this year, as some of our Health Trainers are working with people who are in need of basic essentials too.

Thank you!

We’re incredibly grateful for everything you’ve sent us. As you’ll see in the video, every available space in the office is now full of donated food and toiletries! Thank you so, so much. (But please don’t send any more tinned peas!)

We’d especially like to thank:

The pupils and teachers of Holte School
Vineyard Network Church
Healthy Minds Northfield
Ambition School Leadership
NHS St Chads (Worcs & B’ham)
Birmingham Chamber of Commerce
Staff and friends of Gateway

Love Your Neighbour – taking part in a “Week of Kindness”

Last week the Love Your Neighbour campaign held a Week of Kindness, encouraging people across the city to plan small acts of kindness towards others in their neighbourhood.

We’ve been involved in Love Your Neighbour since its launch in the summer, and we loved the idea of a Week of Kindness, so we had a vote in the office and came up with two events. On Wednesday, Managers Jane and Michelle, together with Health Trainer Wayne and volunteer Caroline, visited a local hostel with some little gifts to give to people; and on Friday, a group of staff went out into the streets around the Gateway office to hand out hot drinks and snacks to anyone who wanted them.

Wednesday: chocs and chats at a local hostel

Michelle with hostel visitorWednesday’s visit to the homeless centre was really interesting. It’s a place we have quite a lot of contact with anyway, as we often work with people who have housing issues, but despite our experience there were still some surprises – not least the varied mix of people who were at the centre: from single mums with children, to married couples, older single women and a lot of non-English-speaking residents who hadn’t been in the country very long and were new to Birmingham.

Wayne with hostel visitorIt’s important for us to have an up-to-date knowledge of the issues that people in Birmingham are facing, so that we can adapt the services we offer and respond to need as quickly and usefully as possible. So it was really good to spend some time with staff and visitors to the hostel, and have a proper chat over a cuppa.

What’s more, we were also able to offer direct support to some of the people we met. Despite their stressful experiences, seven people who’d dropped in that day signed up with Wayne to receive one-to-one support from a Gateway Health Trainer, which is great.

Friday: hot drinks and help at Five Ways

On Friday a larger group of staff went out for our second Week of Kindness event, taking hot drinks and snacks to give out on the streets around our office. We’ve noticed an increasing number of people sleeping rough recently so we also took some gloves, hats, socks, scarves and a couple of blankets in case we met people who might need them.

CxjH24pWIAAhMHcOne of the people we met was a man called Keith who had slept rough the night before, so we got chatting about the options available to him. Thanks to our staff’s knowledge of services in the area, we were able to tell him about the cold weather provision at the William Booth Centre in town.

After spending some time in the underpasses at Five Ways we moved on to a very busy spot outside Morrisons. The weather was freezing so it was good to be able to offer passers-by some hot drinks! Thanks to all the staff who took part.

The Love Your Neighbour campaign

Anyone and everyone can get involved with Love Your Neighbour. In fact, that’s exactly what it relies on. The idea is just to start thinking about getting to know the people around us a bit better, with the hope that it might help to combat loneliness and prejudice.

The Love Your Neighbour campaign says,

Over many generations people have made the UK their home, built it up and found they can belong here. But we cannot take our diversity for granted. It is no use sharing a street or a suburb with people from different backgrounds if we do not know them. Loneliness is at epidemic levels, prejudice threatens to pull communities apart.

We cannot love our neighbour if we do not know our neighbour, understand them, their culture and identity. We all need to build friendships that cement our society together, crossing differences that can become barriers such as age, social background, ethnicity, sexuality, gender and faith – working for peace alongside all people of goodwill.

Love Your Neighbour started in Birmingham, but we’re glad to see it’s starting to spread across the country. It’s a simple message but a very positive one… something we all need at the moment!