Deafscope: Breaking down barriers for the Deaf community

A couple of days ago, Deb, Helena and I met with the lovely people behind Deafscope, a brand new online Deaf community directory.

Set up by Ishtiaq and Kerry, BSL communicators with first-hand experiences of the barriers faced by the Deaf community, Deafscope aims to connect the community, break down barriers and highlight the amazing Deaf-friendly and Deaf-owned businesses around the West Midlands, the UK and eventually around the world.

Bringing together Deaf-friendly and Deaf-owned businesses, services and events in one place means people will be able to see how that business or service can communicate with them along with all the other features they need to see, their location, special offers, contact details and more.Businesses can add listings to the directory to feature products, services, images, social media and website links, special offers, an introduction to their brand and more. The reviews function is designed to build a trusted source of information about accessible businesses and services.

Here’s a great example of how the Deafscope website works:

It’s not only businesses that can feature their services on Deafscope. Deaf-owned or Deaf-friendly charities, voluntary groups, nonprofits and public services such as healthcare services, can register their services, events and activities free of charge. Ishtiaq and Kerry are really keen to get networked so that the website features a whole range of services that reduce the barriers that the Deaf community can face.

And it’s not only a website that lists services, but it can give people ideas. Deaf-owned and Deaf-friendly business can inspire others to set up similar things in their own areas; did you know there’s a Deaf Gym in Bradford? There are also plans for an app and to offer practical support to the Deaf community such as helping people find jobs, training people, nurturing Deaf-owned enterprise. On top of that, being based in Lye means they can offer space, training facilities and events locally!

We’ve helped them to start networking locally and they’ll be linking with the Dudley Deaf Focus Group which is supported by Healthwatch Dudley. Deafscope is also planning a Deaf Community Day for next month. To keep informed about Deafscope, follow on social media:

Facebook: Deafscope
Twitter: @deafscope
Website: deafscope.co.uk

Healthwatch Dudley welcomes over 100 new Information Champions

During the last five years, hundreds of people from local organisations and community groups, have joined Healthwatch Dudley to network with other people in information giving roles.

Our unique training enables people to learn, share and practice how to help people to get information using trusted online resources.  In the last year alone, over 100 new Information Champions have come on board from a wide range of organisations including…

…Mary Stevens Hospice, Springs Church, Brett Young Dementia Gateway, Dudley borough Assisted Living Centres, Trading Standards, Dudley and Walsall Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust (Occupational Therapy), Barnardos, Home Instead Senior Care, Camphill Village Trust, Dudley Carers Network, YMCA, Age UK Dudey, Abberley Street Day Centre, Stonewater Housing, Solutions 4 Health, Just Straight Talk, Black Country Partnership Foundation Trust, Dudley Council Public Health, Dudley CCG, Chawn Hill Church, Victim Support, Top Church Training and Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust, to name but a few!

Coseley Info ChampsOur network now also includes GP practice staff such as receptionists, healthcare assistants and Practice Managers, as a result of NHS England funding allocated through Dudley Clinical Commissioning Group, which has supported practice staff to become care navigators.  The idea is to help people to play a greater role in their own health and care, by being signposted to non-medical services to improve personal health, wellbeing and independence.

We are really proud that our Information Champion Network was recently recognised with a Better Connected ‘Forging a Future for All’ award by a partnership between the Dudley, Stourbridge and Halesowen News, Dudley Council and local partners, at the launch of the new vision for Dudley borough.

Lloyds Bank Access Rep Lorna tells us why she joined the Dudley Community Information Point Network

“Finding out about Healthwatch Dudley has been really interesting, as it will help me to better support my colleagues at Lloyds Bank where I am an Access Network Representative.

Lloyds Banking Group supports employees through a wide range of networks, we have ‘Rainbow’, which helps and connects our LGBTQ colleagues, ‘Breakthrough’ for women in the workplace, ‘Reach’ supporting colleagues from an ethnic minority background, ‘Family Matters’ for parents and carers and ‘Access’ supporting people with disabilities.

Lloyds Bank also has employee assistance programmes to help colleagues who are struggling.  Having a connection with Healthwatch will fit in really well as if people in our network want to share experiences of health and care with an independent body, I can now point them in the right direction.

I have been supporting colleagues as an Access Rep for ten years and finding the right information can sometimes be difficult. Often people who see me have had a recent diagnosis and where I can, I put them in touch with support groups or other people within the organisation who are in a similar situation.

I found out about Information Champion training that Healthwatch Dudley provides to help organisations, charities and groups better connect people with health and wellbeing information.

Joining the Information Champion Network will make such a difference I now have even more up to date and accurate information as well as new contacts.  Some health websites contain obsolete or inaccurate details with broken links, which can be really frustrating.  It’s been great to learn about where to find trusted health and wellbeing information on the net.

I am encouraging all of our other reps to contact their local Healthwatch and make the same links as me so we can provide even better support across the country which will help to make our network even stronger.”

Lorna Wilson, Lloyds Bank Access Network Representative

For more information or to register for free training, visit: http://healthwatchdudley.co.uk/infopoints/ or call 03000 111 001.

Dementia is not a natural part of ageing

Bingo? Knitting? Wartime songs? Nope!

This certainly wasn’t what I experienced when I visited the Alzheimer’s Society Working Age Dementia Café.

Dementia is not a natural part of ageing is 1 of 5 key messages promoted by the national Dementia Friends campaign. It is indeed true that dementia can affect younger people. I had the pleasure of meeting Patrick, John and Steve who are all living with dementia.  

The group meets at The Oakfield Centre, Brettell Lane in Brierley Hill. It takes place on the last Wednesday of every month from 7pm till 9pm. Anyone who has been diagnosed with any form of dementia under the age of 65 is more than welcome. The group would love to see some new friendly faces!

When I popped along to meet the group I received such a warm welcome. Led Zeppelin was playing in the background and the group told me they were known as “The Rockers.” This was so refreshing. Patrick and John were having a go at a rock music themed word search and Steve was amazing us all with his musical knowledge. Later in the evening the group got creative and made different models out of clay which they all seemed to enjoy. Even the less creative amongst us found it quite therapeutic!

What struck me the most was the bond between the group members, not just the gents but also their wives and daughters. Maureen, Louise and Sandra all told me that they enjoyed attending the group and found the element of peer support invaluable. When I asked the guys what they liked most about the group John said that he loves the company, Steve agreed and Patrick said he liked the biscuits! I love his honesty, a man after my own heart…

I’d definitely recommend this group to any younger people living with dementia and their carers. I really enjoyed myself and I’m sure that others would too. Patrick, John and Steve all met one another on Alzheimer’s Society’s Living Well With Dementia Course and have since become great friends. You can find out more about the course and the café by contacting the local branch on 0121 521 3020 or by visiting the website.

Before I came to work for Integrated Plus, I worked for Alzheimer’s Society as a Senior Dementia Friends Officer. I had the pleasure of training up volunteer Dementia Friends Champions who delivered Dementia Friends Information Sessions. These Sessions help the public gain a basic understanding of dementia and learn some of the small things that they can do to help people with dementia living in their community. Awareness raising is so important as with the right support and understanding people with dementia can have the opportunity to live well.

Within Integrated Plus, my colleagues and I have supported 140 people living with dementia to access the support that they need and to help them remain active in their communities. The Working Age Dementia Café was a great example of a group of friends who are living well and enjoying one another’s company. To find out more about how you can become a Dementia Friend please visit the website.

Is your community thinking of taking on land or a building? Here’s what to think about and some resources to help

If you’re thinking of taking on a community building or facility, check out this excellent short webinar from Good Finance. It’s called ‘How to build a cocktail of funding for your community group’, but it covers so much more than that, as we all know that funding is about much more than asking funders, donors or supporters for money!

Photo by Mike Erskine on Unsplash

This webinar covers the things you’ll need to think about before you start and has a useful overview of fundraising options from Locality, as well as an introduction to social investment from Good Finance. It also contains an excellent case study from Stretford Public Hall, whose members brought its community together to bring a disused public building back to life, and ran a successful community share offer to raise the finance needed. Take a look at the webinar below.

Here are the main things that I would take away from the webinar:

  1. Funding options (led by Debbie Lamb, from Locality)
  • Business planning is incredibly important. You’ll have to be clear about what the running costs will be and what will generate income, as well as having a good sense of the advantages and risks of running a community building.
  • Be dispassionate. Try to be realistic about how viable this is and don’t let your emotions lead you to take on something that has very slim chance of success.
  • Think about your organisational structure and the people you have. Does your structure help you to manage risk and liabilities? Does it allow you to borrow (if you plan to borrow)? Does it allow you to raise money through a community share offer (if you plan to do this)? Do you have the right amount of people with the necessary skills and expertise to work as a team?
  • You’re more likely to be raising money through a ‘patchwork’. It’s very unlikely that you will have just one source of income.

This all chimes with my experience of supporting nonprofits with community asset transfer and funding. The strength of the team and its planning is really crucial to success.

The one thing I’d add here is that evidence of community involvement and buy in is equally important. It’s one of the key things Dudley Council will take into account when making decisions on bids for community asset transfer and funders like the National Lottery Community Fund make community involvement a key criterion of all its programmes. You’ll need to be able to demonstrate that the community has been involved in the development of your plans and that the community wants your project to happen!

In terms of community asset transfer in Dudley borough, Dudley Council has made a ‘How to’ guide which tells you what they look for in a robust business case and I’ve made a template business plan which is based on this. What the local authority will look for can be boiled down into a few things:

  • Realistic costings, projections and sources of income: Do you know what condition the facility is in? Does any money need to be spent to bring the building back into use and if so, where is this money likely to come from? Do you already have some confirmed resources to put into it? What are the likely running costs?
  • Robust income-generation model / evidence of sustainability: What activities will bring in income? How realistic are these? Have you spoken to people who are willing to spend money here? What evidence do you have to show that your income will be able to cover running costs?
  • Benefits for the whole community: How will the community benefit? How will people be able to get involved? What positive difference will this make? How will your activities link to local and national strategies? If your building will be used for just one type of activity, it’s less likely to get support.
  • Evidence of community-involvement in the plan: How have members of the local community been able to have a say on what will happen at your facility? Can they be involved as members or will they be able to have a stake in your project?
Photo by Jens Behrmann on Unsplash

2. Social investment (Kieran Whiteside, Good Finance)

Social investment comes in many forms and, although it’s not particularly new, it’s constantly evolving. Not many of the organisations I’ve worked with have wanted to consider social investment, being put off by its repayable nature. In the current climate, though, I think groups should seriously consider it.

The starting point is to learn about what it is to find out about what type might suit you. And in this webinar, Kieran gives us a brief overview of what social investment is and what tools can help you to get started:

  • Social investment is repayable finance, where the investor looks for a social as well as a financial return on their investment. This means you need to be clear about what you need the money for, whether there’s an income stream that will help you to repay, and what social impact you will create (this is about ‘outcomes’ and I recommend the now archived ‘Getting funding and planning successful projects’ guide from National Lottery Community Fund back when it was known as the Big Lottery Fund).
  • The Good Finance website can help you to understand social investment. It has a diagnostic tool to help you to understand whether social investment is right for you and the type of social investment you should consider.
  • Community shares: This involves raising money from the community by issuing shares in the organisation through a formal community share offer. It’s a great way of demonstrating real community buy-in for a project, but only certain types of organisation can issue shares. The Community Shares Unit is a good source of information.
  • Blended finance: This type of social investment is typically a grant + a loan. It’s more common for investments of £250,000 or less.
  • Secured loans: Like a mortgage against an organisation’s asset. This means that the organisation needs to own a building / asset for use as collateral. Social banks, some high street banks and some specialist funders offer secure loans with typically lower interest rates.
  • Finally, crowdfunded investment: Different from rewards-based crowdfunding (Kickstarter, for instance), but more like peer-to-peer lending. You’ll find more information on Ethex or Community Chest

3. Case study of Stretford Public Hall, which ran a successful community share offer (Simon Borkin, Stretford Public Hall)

I was really inspired by the story Simon told of Stretford Public Hall and the power of a community coming together to make things happen!

Stretford Public Hall is a Grade II listed Victorian building that fell into disuse (for the second time) in 2014. In 2015 the Friends of Stretford Public Hall successfully used the Localism Act to get the building listed as an asset of community value. The group secured the freehold of the hall from Trafford Council which meant they could start refurbishment.

To raise money through a community share offer, the Friends of Stretford Public Hall had to set up as a community benefit society (or Ben Comm) so that the organisation could issue shares. This allowed members to invest in the organisation in return for shares, but the principle of the Ben Comm is that each member gets one vote, no matter how many shares they bought.

To set up a community share offer, the organisation had to draw up a business plan and a formal share offer document. Both of these are available on the Stretford Public Hall website, along with lots of other information about how the organisation is run.

What struck me most about this case study was the importance of engaging with the community and the real openness to involving the community in the organisation’s set up and decision-making. It really shows that the friends of Stretford Public Hall did the legwork to make sure the community was engaged and motivated, resulting in the organisation successfully raising £255,000 over 56 days from 790 people in the community and 7 organisations. It’s that kind of community involvement that decides whether a venture will succeed.

Photo by “My Life Through A Lens” on Unsplash

Let’s celebrate and recognise amazing local volunteers across Dudley borough.

It’s that time of year again, when volunteer-involving organisations’ thoughts turn to how to celebrate their wonderful volunteers.  However, a volunteer is for life and not just Volunteers Week, so I thought I would share a series of posts around ensuring your volunteers have the best possible experience.

So lots of articles out there around managing volunteers and good practice tend to focus on the volunteer-involving organisation’s view of the volunteering journey and I’ve decided it’s time to see things from the volunteer’s perspective.

Running a volunteer centre means that I am often contacted by volunteers who feel they have not had the best experience, been treated unfairly or are quite simply disillusioned with the whole thing and have decided it’s not worth the effort!  I’m often called on to do mediation or advocacy to try to repair the volunteer/organisation relationship too, so I’m encouraging you lovely volunteer managers out there to walk in your volunteers’ shoes and see the other side of the relationship.

These posts are not a criticism in any way of how you do things, they are just aimed to help you understand a volunteer’s perspective and enhance your volunteer/organisation relationships.   Managing volunteers is challenging as all volunteers are totally unique and often you are constrained by systems and procedures you don’t really have control over: however, you can certainly personalise parts of your volunteer management systems to make them more volunteer-friendly I’m sure.

Hopefully this series of posts will help you see things from the volunteer’s perspective and improve the way you interact with them, after all a happy, valued volunteer is more productive and a great advertisement for your organisation.

There are eight elements to this series and although there may some sections that appear to repeat what is in other posts, I felt it would be easier if I themed each one, so please do bear with them.

  1. Recruitment
  2. Selection and interviews
  3. Induction
  4. Support
  5. Motivation
  6. Development and training
  7. Recognition

“It all starts with a phone call and a cuppa”

The High Intensity User (HIU) service (developed by NHS Blackpool CCG) has been rolled out across Dudley borough by the Integrated Plus social prescribing team as part of Dudley CVS. The service offers a robust way of reducing avoidable frequent user activity to 999, NHS 111, A&E, and hospital admissions, freeing up front line resources to focus on more clients and reduce costs. It uses a flexible and innovative non-clinical approach, targeting high users of services and supports the most vulnerable people within the community to flourish and find purpose in their lives.

With information given from the Blackpool HIU service, the Integrated Plus team were able to adapt the approach and develop a HIU service in Dudley, match-funded by Dudley Clinical Commissioning Group and the Department of Health.

Danielle and I (Kelly) have been working on this service from its inception in 2018.

Before taking on the role of Urgent Care Link Worker at Integrated Plus, I worked as a substance misuse worker across the Sandwell Borough for 13 years where I developed a good understanding of the skills and attributes needed to work with some of the most vulnerable and complex members of the community. Within that role, I gained experience working across the criminal justice system, child protection, safeguarding adults and children, mental and physical health and domestic abuse. Prior to this, I worked in the community as a carer for the elderly with mental health needs.

My colleague Danielle comes from a background in NHS and private mental health services. For over 10 years Danielle worked in the occupational therapy department within the male and female psychiatric rehab units, working with patients with complex mental health needs, substance misuse, and learning disabilities. From this, Danielle went into hospital discharge learning the pathway patients go through when they are being discharged from hospital and following them through the process. She was then able to use these skills to work alongside GPs in the community co-ordinating patient care, ensuring their discharge from hospital had been completed correctly and they had returned home with all relevant services in place.

In my current role in the HIU team, it all starts with a phone call, from which I am able to actively listen and find out the full extent of the problem/issues that they are facing in their lives. I like to arrange a face-to-face appointment as soon as possible to gain a better understanding of their situation. On the first visit, I try my best to make it very relaxed to allow them to tell their story.

It’s surprising how many people say after the visit it’s the first time they have been really listened to.

From here I give my direct work contact details, agree an action plan with the client and liaise with other agencies involved to ensure that a non-clinical holistic and person-centred approach is taken. The service I then provide is bespoke to that individual, for example, accompanying them to groups, shopping trips, lunch, coffee and medical appointments. I keep my approach relaxed, initially; this may start with speaking to the client two or three times a day as well as out of hours to de-escalate situations that could result in either a 999 call or an A&E attendance.

I will continue to work with a client for up to 6 months intensively with the aim that the support will come to a gradual end and the client no longer feels in crisis. At the end of the service, the client is informed that should they require any further support I would give assistance.”

One service user said,

This service, in my opinion, is vital to help other people from utter despair, I cannot explain in words what this service has done for me.

After another attempt to end it all, I was given a lifeline, introduced to my link worker from Integrated Plus, always at the end of the phone, caring and understanding, non-judgmental who listens to my every need in my recovery. My link worker takes me out for coffee and shopping and has enabled me to laugh again and understand a future without pain. I look forward to her visits helping me to feel normal again”.

If you would like to find out more about the Integrated Plus service visit www.integratedplusblog.com

How a weekly cake, cuppa and chat keep people connected

St Paul’s Community and Learning Centre is a haven on the Hawbush estate in Brierley Hill. No wonder, then, that it’s the location of the welcoming Cake, Cuppa and Chat Group (or ‘3 Cs’), which gets together every Monday afternoon (except bank holidays).

The group is open to anyone who has been bereaved, is feeling lonely, facing a life changing experience like having a partner go into long-term care or for people caring for a loved-one. The idea of the group is to give participants the opportunity to chat with people in a similar situation over a drink and some delicious homemade cake. The group makes it clear that “People who come set the agenda – if you want to play cards or do a jigsaw such things are available, but if you want to come for a chat only that is fine!” It’s like a big tea party every week!

The group’s main organiser is Beryl (whose cakes are incredible!), but it’s probably fair to say that everyone chips in to make the group happen and the conversations flow. Beryl wasn’t there when I arrived, having to pop out for something, but I was welcomed in like an old friend and swiftly offered a place to sit, a cuppa and of course a piece of delicious homemade cake. I’m not great around new people, especially large groups whose members already know each other well; but I was encouraged by a helper to introduce myself to the entire group and to explain why I was visiting. After reassuring everyone that I wasn’t there to talk at them, but that I wanted to be involved in the conversations, I was invited to sit with a small group who were happily chatting about their week.

It became clear to me very quickly that this was a group in which all the participants had built important relationships with each other. It felt like over the years, people had really taken the time to learn about what made each other tick, that they’d listened to each other and respected one another. At the same time, the warm welcome I’d received told me that they were still very open to new people visiting and joining them.

I learned that some of the members had been coming for the seven years the group has been running, others were very new and enjoying making new friendships. Some members came because they lived alone and wanted to feel connected, some were carers and this was their only respite from their caring responsibilities, while others were also involved in lots of other hobbies groups. One gentleman is a member of two singing groups and a keen plant collector, giving me some hints and tips on how to keep my orchids alive! He seemed so busy with his hobbies and told me he really enjoyed keeping active and interacting with people, including his friend who he helps out with lifts to 3 Cs group and to other appointments.

One member was a carer for her husband. She told me that Cake, Cuppa and Chat was the only chance she got to take some time for herself, so it was clearly crucial to her wellbeing. It was really lovely to hear her speak highly of the support she’d received from our Integrated Plus team!

I’d expected most of the members to live within walking distance of the venue, since it’s right in the middle of a large housing estate, and many of them told me they walked there and that they went to other activities at St Paul’s Community and Learning Centre. I was surprised to learn that some members came from further afield. St Paul’s Community and Learning Centre is on a bus route, and some participants feel able to get buses there, while others drive and offer their friends lifts.

The friendship group doesn’t work in isolation and is connected to other things that happen at the centre and in the community. This much was obvious when Kathleen from Briar Lea Over 50s Club paid a visit to invite the members of Cake, Cuppa and Chat to their next trip to Liverpool because they had some spaces available. It’s this kind of sharing that helps groups to keep their costs down and reach more people!

When I met Beryl, she told me that the group had been meeting for the last seven years. Initially, members played board games, but it soon became clear that participants simply wanted to talk to one another, it almost didn’t matter what kinds of other activity they did. And I heard lots of different conversations on my visit; people sharing their experiences, giving knitting tips and swapping patterns, sharing their skills and encouraging each other.

The group regularly gets out and about, too. Members have visited places like Barnet Hill for afternoon tea, they’ve done theatre trips together, pub lunches, visited botanical gardens and they always have a Christmas party! The group is dementia friendly; both carers and those living with dementia are welcome to attend and there’s a quiet space in case anyone feels distressed. Beryl also let me know that every month, she offers time and space for people to reflect and think about their loved ones that they may have lost, which brings us back to the whole point of the group. It’s a caring environment for those that have gone or are going through challenging experiences, a place that shows them that there are still friendships to be made and people that care about them.

If you would like to see if the Cake, Cuppa and Chat Group is suitable for you or a loved one, you’ll get a warm welcome every Monday (except bank holidays), 2pm-4pm. There is no charge to attend, but donations are gratefully received for the hospitality you’ll be shown.

Integrated Plus delivers a successful peer learning programme for staff delivering social prescribing schemes around the East and West Midlands

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During January – April 2019, Dudley CVS’s Integrated Plus service delivered a social prescribing peer learning programme for link workers around the country. The programme enabled existing link workers from across the East and West Midlands to connect with each other, share learning, successes, challenges and access training in areas such as motivational interviewing, mentoring and solution focused therapy.

25 staff from 9 organisations delivering social prescribing projects around the country attended the 10 day programme delivered over 3 months.

Participants shared that they had learnt:

  • More about what social prescribing is
  • Each other’s social prescribing models
  • Different approaches to supporting people
  • New techniques and coping strategies when working with vulnerable people

“Brilliant, invaluable, interesting and overall a fantastic and worthwhile training package” (participant who attended the programme)

“Spending time offering each other peer support has been incredibly invaluable” (participant who attended the programme)

For more information about the Integrated Plus service, please contact Kate Green on 01384 573381.

For National information and updates on social prescribing visit: https://www.socialprescribingnetwork.com/

Self-Care What’s it all about then?

Healthwatch Dudley research shows that self-care is a complex topic and what it is can be different depending, for example, on where you live, whether you have a job or not, and how old you are. We undertook work to gather people’s views on self-care to get a better understanding of what it is and how it might be supported. At the same time, we wanted to know more about how the different circumstances that people find themselves in might determine how they are able (or not) to look after themselves, stay well and get access to the care they need when they are unwell.

Choosing self-care for life

NHS England has, for some time now, been encouraging us all to choose self-care for life and suggesting how they can look after their own and their family’s physical and mental health. In turn, it wants more people to be involved in ‘Taking action for both themselves and others whilst understanding how to use health services’.[1] But, self-care can be thought about and described in different ways.

Figure 1: The self-care continuum

It can be about people, events and actions located on a self-care continuum. At one end is the responsible individual making daily choices about lifestyle, health and the management of any conditions they have. At the other end there are events like compulsory psychiatric care and treatment for major trauma or illness that is administered by professionals responsible for what happens to an individual (see Figure 1).[2]

Meanwhile, there are the wider determinants of health and wellbeing – such as where we live, the jobs we have, and how we are able to get access to good quality housing and health care services. We need to understand how the circumstances that we find ourselves in can affect our capacity to self-care (see Figure 2).[3]

Figure 2: Factors that influence an individual’s health and wellbeing

It is widely acknowledged that our opportunity for good health starts long before we need health care. And consequently, our unhealthy behaviours are most often ‘Usually not the origins of poor health but the end point of a long chain of causes and consequences in our lives’.[4] There is a strong case for thinking that responsibility for health should extend beyond the individual and the health and social care system to include the whole of society.[5]

‘We know what we should do, but we don’t always do it’

Self-care is about understanding yourself and others understanding you. However, it was remarked that ‘A lot of people want to self-care, but they can’t do it without support’. And bureaucracy and red-tape gets in the way and stops communities and individuals from taking action to do things at the local level through self-help, leisure and other social activities.

Time and effort must be given to making the most of what exists in communities already, the buildings, facilities and group activities and individuals and their knowledge, skills and talents.

At the same time, people want help and advice from well-qualified professionals who can provide them with information, where it is appropriate, on how they can best look after themselves when they feel unwell. In turn, relations work better when there are good communications that ‘Instill confidence that something can be done’, whether it is through a conversation to get advice on what to do next, help with the management of an ongoing health condition, or information on care and treatment.

There is something about our health and wellbeing that is about having control and choice over what we do and what happens to us. And sometimes we just need to slow down, listen to our body and get through the day. Understanding that there will be days when you feel down and need to deal with knocks and setbacks. Then there are the times when you need people to be around who care about you and will listen to what you have to say. Maybe we need to reflect on what is happening in our lives and ‘Identify the positives, new opportunities, new hobbies, new experiences’.

The aim must be to give people real choice over what happens regarding their self-care. And reassure them that they will be able to get access to appropriate services and professional help when they need it.

Our health and capacity to self-care can depend a lot on being surrounded by people we love and trust and ‘Being connected with others and a community’. It can also be about ‘Finding time to look after yourself, doing things you want to do, outside of busy lives at work’ and being able to express your emotions and laugh.

Policymakers and other professionals, with an interest in self-care, need to work with people, from a wide variety of backgrounds, to learn more about what it means to them and how they might be supported to do it better. We need to know what hinders or stops people from undertaking self-care activities. It might be because they are living in poor or insecure accommodation, are struggling to live on a low income, or have no family or friends nearby to offer help and support.[6] On professionals it was remarked that ‘They should come to our natural environment’ and work with people to find out what their health and wellbeing needs are and what can be done together to promote and sustain good self-care activities.

How to promote and support self-care

Have in-depth conversations with people from all types of background to get a diversity of views on self-care and wellbeing.

Develop strong relations with communities, be inquisitive, and adopt a non-judgmental approach to understanding lifestyles and aspirations.

Determine what opportunities exist for self-care and wellbeing quick wins targeting resources appropriately to achieve them.

Get the messages out on self-care, thinking about what it is and how to get help with it.

Get people involved and more in control of what happens in the area where they live and the design of services to meet jobs, environment, housing, leisure, transport, education and health needs.

Make the most of existing community strengths and bonds, buildings and facilities and people’s knowledge and skills in a place based approach to partnership working that celebrates the good things already happening in an area and identifies and deals with gaps in services and support for self-care.

Clearly identify how self-care and staying healthy, the prevention of illness, and getting access to treatment when it is needed are intimately bound together and can be part of a well thought through population and personal health and wellbeing pathways

Set out personal and collective community and organisation responsibilities for promoting, supporting and doing self-care so that it works for everyone


[1] NHS England (2018) ‘Encouraging people to choose self-care for life, https://www.england.nhs.uk/2018/11/encouraging-people-to-choose-self-care-for-life/

[2] Self Care Forum, http://www.selfcareforum.org/about-us/what-do-we-mean-by-self-care-and-why-is-good-for-people/

[3] Dahlgren G, Whitehead M. (1991) ‘Policies and Strategies to Promote Social Equity in Health’, Stockholm, Sweden: Institute for Futures Studies, https://ideas.repec.org/p/hhs/ifswps/2007_014.html

[4] Lovell, N. and Bibby, J. (2018) ‘What makes us healthy? An introduction to the social determinants of health’, The Health Foundation,  https://www.health.org.uk/publications/what-makes-us-healthy

[5] NHS England (2014) ‘The Five Year Forward View’, https://www.england.nhs.uk/five-year-forward-view/

[6] Department of Health and Social Care, ‘Prevention is better than cure: Our vision to help you live well for longer, 2018. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/prevention-is-better-than-cure-our-vision-to-help-you-live-well-for-longer

Find out more about Healthwatch Dudley’s work and research at www.healthwatchdudley.co.uk

Grace Community Church: Working together to build a vibrant new community space for local people in Pensnett

Grace Community Church, based in Pensnett, is a passionate congregation of people, committed to making their local area a better place to live by responding to the changing needs of the community around them. As a community, they have pulled together using their individual skills and connections to build a vibrant new community space that will become a place where local people can come together, learn new things, and get support.

I recently visited Nigel Rowe, Pastor at Grace Community Church, at their new community building to find out more about their recent asset transfer success and future plans for the building and the local community.

It was in early 2018 when Nigel approached Dudley CVS looking for a community space in the Pensnett area to use as a base for their group’s activities. After an initial discussion about potential buildings they could rent in the area, Becky, Dudley CVS Small Groups Officer, suggested community asset transfer as an option to consider and pointed in the direction of Dudley Council to find out more about potential buildings available in the area.

After a short period of looking around, Nigel found a local building that wasn’t being fully utilized. It had previously been used for a senior citizens club, which only met once or twice a week for bingo. The space had the potential to offer lots more. After expressing an interest in the building, they put together a business plan and worked with Dudley Council to start the asset transfer process. They received the keys in October last year.

Community asset transfer involves the transfer of responsibility for buildings or land from the local authority to a voluntary or community organisation. It presents opportunities to ensure that facilities can continue to be available locally for social, community and public use. The process starts with an expression of interest, followed by a business plan to show community support for the transfer, the kinds of activities that would take place in the building that would benefit the community, and financial sustainability.

Although they found the asset transfer a lengthy process, it gave them some extra time to raise the funds to renovate the building. Roughly £25,000 has been spent on the renovations so far. The Ibstock Enovert Trust, an environmental body that supports community and environmental projects, awarded £15,000 for the project, and the church’s congregation worked hard to raise the rest of the money.

When I visited Nigel at the building, I was amazed to find wonderfully welcoming, bright and spacious rooms, beautifully decorated with modern fixtures and fittings, a vast improvement from the old photos I’d seen of the building. Although not entirely finished, it’s very nearly there, even as I arrived there was somebody busily painting away!

Nigel told me about the incredible support from the local community, how everybody pulled together to make this project happen, not only the congregation but also local businesses that had donated fittings, materials and equipment.

Tiles were donated by a local business doing a renovation job in the area. Electricians, Sunny Electrical, and local plumbing company Gill Mechanical Service offered their skills at a reduced rate. Will Hire from Lye hired out scaffolding and core drills free of charge. Howdens donated a fitted kitchen after hearing about their various food-related projects for local people, including hampers during the winter, and ‘Make Lunch’, providing free school meals to young people and children during the school holidays.

It’s unbelievable to see old photos of how the building looked before the renovation work began:

And today, the incredible transformation – a bright and modern space!

And, the congregation are not just a vibrant and friendly bunch, they themselves are also very ‘handy’ with skills in decorating, painting, plastering and building work. Locally, Grace Community Church has taken on gardening and DIY projects for elderly people that can’t get out of the house, or for people that might be struggling for other reasons. Nigel told me, “It’s surprising how much you need for a renovation project like this that you don’t realise. We’re already using a lot of these skills out in the community, and we’re now using them to complete this project so that we can bring the community in. Local people and businesses just wanted to help because they had heard about all the good things we were planning to do with the space.”

All Nations Church Wolverhampton, their parent church, has also helped and supported the work in the area.

The building is now equipped with everything that is needed for a fully functioning community space. It has a large bright main room for events, a brand new modern kitchen space, toilet facilities and a day/activities room for toddler groups.

The vision for what takes place in the building has been built around what they have learnt from the changing needs of the community around them. They will start with a toddler group to support isolated parents in the area, as since the closure of the local children’s centre there hasn’t been a great provision for parents. Their aim is to ensure that people can drop in at any time, and there will always be someone available in the building to support parents. Nigel added, “It will be a place where answers can be found. We don’t have all the answers, but we can work together to find them”. The Toddler Group meets every Tuesday morning from 9:30am until 11am.

Nigel is also a Chaplain at Crestwood School, offering extra support for young people during lunchtime. This helps them to understand the needs of young people in the area.

The space will be used to run activities with young families, to start youth groups, art clubs, coffee mornings, and in the future, they hope to put on parenting classes, and workshops to support people with managing their finances. There will be summer school meals in the new kitchen and big events during the summer and Christmas time. Currently, they run a music workshop on a Wednesday evening and are looking to expand. People of all ages are welcome to come and use the equipment. They also plan to link up with the local food bank and potentially use the building as a distribution point.

Their aim is to build up better relationships with local people through running groups, classes and events. It’s also about connecting people socially by offering a safe place to meet to get to know other people, with a hope that new friendship groups will blossom.

Nigel tells me, “Isolation affects people of all ages. There is nowhere local to just sit down and have a coffee. We want to have drop-ins so that people can come in and have a friendly face to share a hot drink and a cake with.” Exciting future plans include potentially opening a coffee shop in the building to provide people with a place to meet and do things, also giving local people job opportunities.

Grace Community Church is now focused on getting over the starting line so they can bring exciting new projects and activities to the community. It’s wonderful to see such a transformation, providing the Pensnett community with a place to be for many years to come. I’m very much looking forward to seeing what comes next.

Grace Toddler Group meets every Tuesday morning from 9:30am until 11am. There is also a meeting every Sunday morning from 10:30am for an open and friendly church service with children’s activities and refreshments at the end. All are welcome.

If you would like to find out more about the project contact gracechurch@allnations.org.uk