Given the most recent government advice, and for the wellbeing of our staff and the people we work with, we are moving towards home working over the next couple of days. However, all of our services are still running, and you should continue to contact us in the usual way.
Our outreach services — including the Solihull Lifestyle Service and Social Prescribing Link Workers — are continuing to take referrals and to support people over the phone and via email. If you would like to refer into these services you can, and if you are currently receiving support, you will continue to do so, albeit remotely.
All face-to-face group activities have been suspended, so the MVP meeting scheduled for 26th March will not take place and the Patient Health Forum is not currently running.
Solihull contact information
For the Solihull Lifestyle Service, including the Solihull Stop Smoking Service, please call free on 0800 599 9880 and you will be put through to an adviser as usual. We are still taking new clients and referrals.
Other contact information
For other queries about any other services, or for general information about Gateway Family Services, please call our Birmingham number which is 0121 456 7820.
Healthy Futures was a social prescribing service that we funded ourselves and this was a typical client story, showing just how much a Social Prescribing was needed in Birmingham. However, although Healthy Futures was highly successful from a healthcare perspective — supporting over 200 people with tailored non-medical support, and saving time and money for local GPs — eventually, a lack of external financial support made it unsustainable.
Since last year’s Social Prescribing Day, though, we’re pleased to say that things have changed considerably.
This year, the concept of Social Prescribing is much more widely known and understood.
NHS England have rolled out Social Prescribing services nationally, funding PCNs (Primary Care Networks, which are groups of GP practices) across the country to offer a model that is very similar to Healthy Futures. Many GPs, practice staff and other primary care providers can now refer patients to a Link Worker, who works one-to-one with the patient to offer direct support and signposting.
Now, people in Birmingham like Alia will be able to once again access support from a trusted para-professional, trained to support people with all sorts of social, non-clinical needs. Gateway is working in partnership with SDSmyhealthcare to deliver a Social Prescribing Link Worker service to 11 PCNs across Birmingham and Solihull, and our new Link Workers are already settling into their surgeries.
Each Social Prescribing Link Worker works from a number of different surgeries throughout the week, offering patients one-to-one, person-centred support.
GPs and Practice staff can refer anyone who needs non-medical help, and the Link Worker will work with that person to help them take control of their own health and wellbeing and increase their active involvement with their local community.
People with social rather than medical needs
People needing help to access or navigate services
People experiencing social isolation or poor mental health
People with issues relating to advice, housing or income
“Sure, we can walk with you through a door – but ultimately it is your door.”
Zeshaan is one of Gateway’s new Social Prescribing Link Workers. He works with GP practices in the NSAR Primary Care Network, covering Nechells, Saltley and Alum Rock. Find out more about his role, and how he feels about social prescribing, in this short video.
Straight Talking West Midlands — a team of young parents who go into schools to talk to pupils — are now delivering more sessions than ever. This year, to complement our sessions on teen pregnancy, healthy and unhealthy relationships and child sexual exploitation (CSE), our Peer Educators are introducing a new session: gang and knife crime prevention.
As with all the sessions, this is being designed as an early intervention tool, with the aim of preventing children from being persuaded into gangs and related crime. Working with the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, we’re designing the sessions to cover topics such as the pressures of gang affiliation, drug trafficking, the impact of knife crime, and awareness of the ways in which young people can be groomed to take part in criminal activity.
We’re looking forward to delivering the new session as part of the full course from Spring 2020. If you think your school or youth group would benefit from some Straight Talking, contact Marc or Che on 0121 456 7820 or email email@example.com for more information.
What will the sessions cover?
Shocking statistics from the Office of National Statistics show that knife crime is rising faster in the West Midlands than anywhere else in the country – in fact it has tripled in the last five years. And the National Crime Agency has recently identified Birmingham as a major hub for county lines, whereby children are recruited and bribed to deal drugs in rural areas, often ending up hundreds of miles from home.
The new sessions for schools and youth groups in the West Midlands are still in development, but they will be based on sessions already being trialled by Straight Talking in London. They will cover the pressures that young people may be under to carry a weapon, or to be associated with gangs or criminal activity, and — like the sessions we already deliver on child sexual exploitation — the ways in which young people can be groomed.
In the West Midlands, sessions on gangs and knife crime prevention are supported by the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) so our aim is early intervention. The first step to prevention is knowing the full facts, so our Peer Educators will be making pupils fully aware of how what starts as a ‘friendship’ may lead to pressure being put onto them, and the consequences of getting involved in criminal activity.
As with all our Straight Talking work, these will be interactive, lively sessions, and the Peer Educators will be using role-playing games to get pupils thinking about how they might react in certain situations, opening up discussions about their expectations versus the realities, and making them fully aware of the risks. They’ll also be showing videos — such as the one below from Rosca, a former violent offender who explains how he became involved with a criminal gang in London from a very early age.
If you have experience of this type of youth crime and feel you could be a positive role model for young people, we’d be interested in talking to you. For more information, contact Marc on 0121 456 7820 or email firstname.lastname@example.org..
We’re moving offices on Thursday so from 12pm we will be without phone lines but we hope we’ll be back up and running again within a few hours and certainly by the end of the afternoon. You can still email us email@example.com and if you have any individual staff members mobile numbers please continue to use as normal as these will be unaffected. All should be back to normal on Friday.
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!