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.
“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.
To celebrate the first Social Prescribing Day, we wanted to share a recent story from Healthy Futures, our social prescribing service.
Social Prescribing Day aims to highlight the importance and significance of social prescribing within healthcare. Created by the Social Prescribing Network, a collaboration of doctors, colleges and the NHS, it’s a chance for services like ours to share stories about a way of working that has become a social movement.
In just over two years, our Healthy Futures “Wellbeing Navigators” have worked with over 200 people in Birmingham to support them with social and other non-medical issues. People are usually referred into the service by their GP, and then we work with them to provide a range of tailored interventions.
Those interventions might be as simple as a cup of tea and a chat, or — more often — help applying for the benefits people are entitled to, help bidding for social housing, understanding and filling in forms, calling the utilities to sort out bills, travelling with people to appointments, finding social groups people might enjoy (and going with them, if needed), and signposting to other organisations and agencies. Sometimes, as Alia’s story below illustrates, our staff are the only support workers available to listen at a time of crisis.
How Ralph helped Alia and her son to put down roots
When Wellbeing Navigator Ralph first met Alia* last summer, she and her young disabled son were living in a homeless centre after moving away from her abusive partner. Socially, they were very isolated, with no local family and few friends. Alia cared for her son 24/7 with very little respite, and told Ralph she was suffering from depression and anxiety.
Alia’s risks were recorded as:
caring responsibilities (disabled son)
Alia told Ralph she was looking for social activities so that she and her son, nearly two, could make some friends – important not just for her, but for her son’s development. And of course, she was keen to move out of the homeless centre. With support from Shelter, she had applied to move into social housing and was waiting for a decision.
Ralph was in the office one evening when he received a frantic call from Alia: her housing application had been rejected. Extremely upset, she hadn’t been able to speak to anyone. They talked and Ralph changed his plans so he could meet her the next day.
The following day, Ralph found Alia feeling very low. He explained that the next step would be to appeal against the decision, then called Shelter to arrange a visit from her support worker for the following week. Worried about her mental and physical health, he asked her to consider going to her GP. When he left, he told the Centre staff his concerns and told Alia that he would be available over the weekend if she needed him. (Later, Alia admitted to Ralph just how ill she’d felt that day, and that she had been considering self-harm, but that his friendly advice encouraged her to seek help.)
Since then, things have started to look up. Alia’s Shelter support worker and their legal team made the appeal against the social housing decision, and Ralph helped to arrange an Occupational Therapy assessment for her son as part of that appeal.
Ralph also found lots of activities for them to get out and meet people. Alia’s son likes animals, so he told them about the local nature centre and farms, which they have since enjoyed visiting. He referred them to their local Children’s Centre, and a support team helped them access free nursery care and activities. Alia’s GP surgery offered her a stress management course which she took up and really enjoyed. And, although Alia had originally refused Home-Start support, she changed her mind and began to receive support from volunteers providing temporary at-home respite.
Three months on, Ralph was overjoyed when Alia called to say the appeal had been successful. Now, they live in their own temporary accommodation. Alia’s making new friends and her son’s doing really well at nursery. They still have a long road ahead, but they’re happier and healthier – thanks to Ralph, Shelter, and her new support networks.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
We know it can be hard to keep people motivated, especially after the Christmas break. That’s why we’ve come up with a range of tailored Workplace Wellbeing programmes that might just be able to help. Together, we’ll beat the winter blues!
Our qualified, specialised Health and Wellbeing Advisers have been working with people in the community for over a decade, and now we’re sharing that experience with employers.
For years, we’ve seen how better health and wellbeing leads to better resilience and confidence, which in turn helps people at work.
Statistics show that better workplace wellbeing can reduce absence and sickness levels, reduce risk before illness occurs, and improve staff retention and motivation.
You might like to start off with a light-hearted Health Taster Day, offering lots of fun activities over a day for people to pop in and try (including the famous Smoothie Bike)!
Or you may have an issue in mind that you’d like to address with your workforce, and be looking for something more structured – like our Preparing to Quit Smoking course.
Give us a call today and we’ll work with you to get to know your needs, and put together the perfect programme to help your staff. All our Workplace Wellbeing sessions are designed to create healthier, happier teams.
This winter, let’s stop the productivity slump before it happens!
For more information, or to book a visit, give our Workplace Wellbeing Manager Jemma a ring on 0121 456 7820.
Almost three quarters of smokers say they would like to quit.
But it’s not easy. More than a third (39%) go on to attempt it each year but only a small proportion (about 5%) successfully stop smoking.
However, did you know that with specialist support — for example from a structured smoking cessation course — smokers are up to four times more likely to successfully quit, compared to those who try and stop without any support?
That’s why we are using our extensive experience to provide tailored courses, held in the workplace, for businesses who want to help their employees to quit.
Over the last month, we’ve been helping groups of employees to prepare to give up smoking with some tailored Quit Smoking courses for Stoptober, but we’d love to extend this offer to more companies and workplaces.
Supporting your employees to stop smoking won’t just benefit their health – it will be benefit your business. According to Public Health England, people who smoke take an average of two or three days more sick leave per year. Together with lost productivity from regular cigarette breaks, employees who smoke are estimated to cost UK businesses £7.5 billion a year.
Smoking is something that Gateway’s health and wellbeing teams have been helping people with for many years (you might be interested in this blog post we published in 2013, The Smoking Challenge, about the ways in which our Health Trainers and Pregnancy Outreach Workers tackled the subject with the people they worked with). So we’ve used our extensive experience to design sessions that we know will engage people, and help them to build the confidence to make important changes.
As a not-for-profit CIC, any profit we make is reinvested in the education, employment, health and wellbeing of the people we work with across the West Midlands.
What happens on a smoking cessation course?
The smoking cessation courses that Gateway runs are led by a qualified smoking cessation facilitator and take place on site, at your place of work. We can accommodate up to 15 people per session and each session (which lasts around an hour) is tailored to the people in the group.
The sessions focus on preparation: the group leaders encourage people to look ahead to a time when they no longer smoke, and then they go through all the typical worries that smokers have about giving up.
For example, a lot of people worry about putting on weight, or struggling to control their mood swings — so there are sessions on managing stress and combating food cravings.
Mental wellbeing is very important so the courses cover the “Five Ways to Wellbeing”, too. It’s all about making lifestyle changes and feeling in control.
As well as the taught elements, there are plenty of opportunities for discussion — because we know from experience that sharing experiences and worries as a group really helps people to make positive changes. Like all of our work, these courses include a lot of client-led planning and support.
We can also help people to access further healthy activities if they want to (and they often do, once they start making changes!). We can even bring some fun healthy activities into the workplace, like the Smoothie Bike.
By looking ahead and focusing on behaviour change, Gateway smoking cessation courses build resilience and make sure people who want to give up smoking are as prepared as they can be when they finally quit. Statistics show that being prepared and following “stages” not only helps people to stop but, more importantly, helps the changes to stick.
If you’d like to support your employees to stop smoking, give Jemma Abbott at Gateway a call on 0121 456 7820 and ask about smoking cessation. We look forward to helping you create a healthier workplace!
Over the last year, we’ve started encouraging people to use a digital app to stay in touch after their health and wellbeing courses end.
Because so many people on our 12 week Lighten Up For Life course were telling us they wanted to keep in contact with each other, we decided to make it part of the process. Now, when the 12 weeks are up, if people are interested, we help them to create a group chat, using the popular messaging service WhatsApp.
We’ve found that this doesn’t just help people to sustain the behavioural changes they’ve made over the time they’ve been doing the course – there’s also an important social aspect. Lots of people told us they enjoyed the social side of the meetings, including some who said this was the only social interaction they’d had in a while, so WhatsApp helps people to develop and extend these social relationships. It also allows us to extend the intervention for slightly longer, and to wind down support rather than ending it abruptly when the 12 weeks are up.
Health and Wellbeing Facilitator Beckie says, “we now have groups from courses we’ve run at Bosworth and Crabtree Hall using WhatsApp. They use it to inform each other of their progress, any issues they’ve had, recipe ideas, and generally to see how each other are and share ideas.”
It also seems to increase the likelihood of people doing further healthy activities. We think this is because they now have an ongoing peer support group based around a common interest.
Beckie (pictured second from left) says, “five people who were on a course together at Bosworth have now joined a local ‘sitting yoga’ exercise group – none of them were doing an activity before but now they all attend this together. Another lady who attended one of our first 12 week courses has now set up a healthy eating and meditation group of her own. She said she wouldn’t have had the confidence or knowledge to do something like this if it hadn’t been for our group.”
Like everything we do at Gateway, this initiative came from – and has been led by – the people we work with. Course participants told us they wanted to keep in touch, so we helped them to make it happen. We decided on WhatsApp because many people already use it and if they don’t, it’s free to set up and simple to use. Our Health and Wellbeing Facilitators help people to install the app on their phones, then stay in the WhatsApp group for a short time after the course has ended, answering questions and giving encouragement. Eventually, we phase out our input and the group continues on its own.
Out of interest, we have found WhatsApp groups to be more successful and longer-lasting than Facebook groups. This is reflected in this study from 2015, which found that WhatsApp groups successfully helped people who were trying to stop smoking. Researchers theorised that Whatsapp has fewer distractions than Facebook, and that digital interventions like this work better when people can only use it on their phones.
Having seen the benefits, we are now expanding the idea, and staff in all our services that have a social aspect – including Five Ways to Wellbeing courses, the Maternity Voices Partnership, Patient Health Forums, and Peer Educators – now give people the option of joining a group chat if they want to.
On 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!
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.
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.
Last week a subgroup of the Birmingham and Solihull Maternity Voices Partnership (MVP) went to Birmingham Women’s Hospital to do the Fifteen Steps Challenge, and today they’re feeding back their observations at our first MVP meeting.
What is “Fifteen Steps To Maternity”?
“I can tell what kind of care my daughter is going to get within 15 steps of walking on to every new ward.” This powerful statement, from a mother whose daughter needed frequent inpatient stays, inspired the development of the Fifteen Steps Challenge. The Challenge focuses on seeing care through a patient or carer’s eyes, and exploring their first impressions.
We decided to use the Fifteen Steps For Maternity toolkit to kick off our MVP work because it’s a simple, practical and engaging idea that can have an immediate effect on services.
Our MVP subgroup visited Birmingham Women’s Hospital and looked at three wards — ante-natal, delivery and post-delivery — to make observations and feed back to staff with their first impressions. Over the next few months we hope to be able to do the same thing at the other hospitals in the region. (Next stop Good Hope – let us know if you’d like to take part.)
Watch the videos below to meet some of the team who took the Challenge, and hear some of the examples of the observations they made. As service user Catherine points out, “little things make a huge difference when you’re about to give birth”!
Catherine is a maternity services user
Anne-Marie also gave her views as a service user
Kookie and Sue
Kookie and Sue are midwives at Birmingham Women’s Hospital
The first meeting of BSol MVP is taking place today, Thursday 12th July, but we’re still keen to involve more service users. (And not just mums! Dads, grandparents and other family members are all very welcome too.) If you’ve used maternity services in Birmingham or Solihull over the last few years, give our MVP Co-ordinator Sharon Bartlett a ring on 0121 456 7820 to ask about being part of the MVP.
Do you have recent experience of maternity services in Birmingham or Solihull?
We are putting together Birmingham and Solihull’s Maternity Voices Partnership (MVP): a team of people who provide feedback about their local maternity system. The panel will include maternity professionals (like midwives and doctors) and people with direct personal experience of the service.
If you have recent experience of maternity services in Birmingham or Solihull, we’d like to invite you and your family to get involved. We want as many people as possible to have their voices and opinions heard – not just women, but their partners and other family members, too.
We’ll be collecting your feedback and leading more discussions so that you can share your ideas about how local maternity services could be improved. The idea is to design and develop services with real people in mind.
The first meeting will be in July and we will hold an induction for all volunteers before it takes place, so you’ll be fully prepared. Expenses will be paid, including travel, parking and childcare costs.
If you’re interested in finding out more, please contact your local MVP Co-ordinator Sharon Bartlett at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0121 456 7820.
If you work with people who have recent experience of local maternity services, or if you’d just like to help us spread the word, you can share this blog post, and there’s even an A5 leaflet you can print and share. Download the A5 leaflet [pdf, 192kb].
Maternity Voices Partnerships are being set up all over the country and we’re excited about going out into our local communities and finding people to take part in ours. Sharon, our Co-ordinator, is a former Pregnancy Outreach Worker so she’s got some great experience and knowledge of local networks.