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

 

“JUST GO FOR IT” funding success Dudley Voices for Choice

Dudley Voices for Choice (DVC) is a user led self-advocacy organisation that supports and empowers people with learning disabilities and autism to speak up for themselves and their peers, actively participating in community meetings and strategic meetings with the council and health services around the borough. Recently the charity celebrated a funding success, having been awarded a grant from the National Lottery Community Fund totalling £415,720 to maintain a regional self-advocacy network.

Martin, Funding Officer at Dudley CVS tells us more about his support, the application stages and the success achieved at the end of a long but rewarding process.

Almost 2 years ago (April 2017) I was approached by Sarah Offley (Project Manager at DVC) enquiring about funding for a regional forum comprising 12 West Midlands Self Advocacy charities previously in receipt of statutory funding. Following cuts by local authorities they were concerned that their essential work may not be able to continue. They wanted to maintain the network and work on a consortium bid to secure funding.

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I met with the network in June and was enthused not just by their passion and desire for the work they were doing but also, and most importantly, by the ongoing involvement of their beneficiaries in the work they were carrying out. The self-advocacy was guided by support workers however the direction and decisions were led by beneficiaries i.e. people with learning disabilities. This influenced me in suggesting they approach the Lottery large grant programme Reaching Communities bearing in mind their stipulation that all funded projects must involve beneficiaries throughout the various elements of the work e.g. planning, delivery and evaluating. I provided them with a contact at the Lottery who they could speak to.

Over the remainder of 2017 and into January 2018 Sarah and her team worked on putting together a stage one application receiving support and encouragement along the way from Dudley CVS and the Lottery grants officer. I explained the time-scales involved over not only two application stages but also the possibility of a telephone interview along the way pointing out the importance of having strong evidence of need to show the Lottery how essential their work was and the need for it to continue.

They took on board the challenge led by Sarah. It was decided to submit the application via DVC rather than as a consortium bid. The emotion and passion provided by Sarah was key in the success of the application. Working closely with Sarah we were able to capture all of this translating it into words that would convey the message to the Lottery whilst at the same time highlighting the massive importance of their plans and what they wanted to achieve.

Having been invited to submit a stage two application they were guided and supported by initially Dudley CVS but, very importantly, all along the journey by the new Lottery grants officer for Dudley John Goodman. Sarah received great support also from Claire who was there to proof read her submissions and give her feedback where appropriate. An excellent team effort all round.

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In early December 2018 Sarah received the news that they had been successful and that the Lottery had agreed to provide them with a 4-year grant totalling £415,720. The good news was embargoed until February 14th when a launch event was held at DY1 where all the charitable organisations involved in the network attended along with many beneficiaries, all celebrating together having achieved a fantastic result.

All of this would never have taken place without the dedication and hard work of everyone involved in the network. Detailed planning and many discussions took place over an 18-month period to rejuvenate the regional forum looking at what they wanted and how they would approach the work/do things differently in the future. Everything centred on the importance of people with learning disabilities having their voices heard and being able to be remunerated/paid for delivering excellent advocacy work to others. This was a key issue throughout as they looked at what was important to people with learning disabilities so they could understand their rights and consider the many opportunities available to them alongside the challenges they may face.

One of the interesting areas of the application, and the ongoing work that will take place over the next 4 years, is the involvement of Regional Champions. They will champion the great work going on throughout the network and feedback key information and case studies so evaluation of this great work can take place throughout the 4 years and beyond. They will have a defined role and purpose continually learning and developing so that they have transferable skills that they can use now and in the future in the work place providing them with good employment prospects and opportunities that they can take to the job market.

All of this will be delivered alongside Local Community workers who will ensure everything runs smoothly and people with learning disabilities are given fantastic support throughout.

To sum up all of this is a short quote from Sarah when she said “we were encouraged to just go for it” which is directed at the process of applying to get the money but can also be used as a mantra for the beneficiaries in all of this as people with learning disabilities are encouraged to “just go for it”.

Integrated Plus Service – evidencing the value of social prescribing for people living in Dudley borough

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During late 2018, Dudley CVS appointed an external consultant, David Waterfall, to work alongside the team to collate and analyse data regarding the Integrated Plus social prescribing service, and to use this information to produce an evidence-led evaluation report.

Dudley CVS has been delivering a social prescribing service for the nearly 5 years. In early 2014, Dudley CVS with support from Dudley Clinical Commissioning Group (Dudley CCG), identified an opportunity to develop and deliver an innovative, flexible and complementary service called ‘Integrated Plus’.

The service was set up to trial a different approach to supporting people in their own homes to ensure the non-clinical needs of patients are taken into account at the GP-led Multi-Disciplinary Team meetings (MDTs) established in 2014. Integrated Plus offers 1-2-1 social prescribing support to patients aged 16 and over who are:

  • At high risk of hospital admission;
  • Frequently visiting their GP;
  • Vulnerable and in need on non-clinical, social support.

Key findings from the report:

  • 2,720 out of 3,756 clients have connected with the service during September 2014 – August 2018.
  • In terms of a typical patient referral to Integrated Plus; 60% are aged 64 and over, 37% are aged between 24 – 63, 58% are female, 71% have no caring responsibility, 25% are referred due to feeling isolated, 17% because of a long term health condition and 16% due to feeling that they have mild to moderate depression. There is a high correlation between clients feeling isolated and feeling that they have mild to moderate depression.
  • 94% of clients rate the service as 4 or 5 stars (out of 5), 96% consider Integrated Plus has had an impact on them (of which 28% consider this to be significant), and 79% feel that Integrated Plus has helped connect them to services and activities suitable to their needs.

 Performance

Following Integrated Plus, client change for each of the seven core outcomes was:

  • Finance; an 81% reduction in those patients that were not managing, and also an increase of 48% for those who were managing. The greatest enhancement in an indicator was “I have enough money to meet basic needs
  • Physical Health; an 82% reduction in those patients that were not managing, and also an increase of 29% for those who were managing. The greatest enhancement in an indicator was “I am managing long term conditions well”.
  • Mental Health; an 76% reduction in those patients that were not managing, and also an increase of 58% for those who were managing. The greatest enhancement in an indicator was “Feeling optimistic about the future
  • Social Contact; an 80% reduction in those patients that were not managing, and also an increase of 35% for those who were managing. The greatest enhancement in an indicator was ““I regularly have face to face social contact with people who are not family members”
  • Housing; an 82% reduction in patients that were not managing, and also an increase of 24% for those who were managing. The greatest enhancement in an indicator was “I feel able to keep up with my rent”
  • Safety; an 83% reduction in those patients that were not managing, and also an increase of 24% for those who were managing. The greatest enhancement in an indicator was “I feel I have people I can contact”.
  • Learning; an 72% reduction in those patients that were not managing, and also an increase of 10% for those who were managing. The greatest enhancement in an indicator was “I feel happy in my retirement

In broader terms, following the intervention 46% fewer clients report poor quality of life, and 45% fewer clients report poor wellbeing.

  • For hospital data, there are significant reductions in A&E attendance after Integrated Plus with a 14% reduction after 6 months, increasing to a 17% reduction after 12 months. Regarding inpatient admissions, after Integrated Plus there is a 14% reduction after 6 months, increasing to a 15% reduction after 12 months. In terms of hospital cost avoidance, data shows £751,400 for reductions in Inpatients, and £58,305 in reduced A&E admissions; totaling £809,705
  • For GP data, of the 43 surgeries engaged; 34 had a decrease in surgery consultations, 21 had a decrease in telephone consultations, and 26 had a decrease in home visits. In terms of GP cost avoidance, data shows £73,115 in fewer GP Consultations, and £16,400 for fewer GP Home Visits; totaling £89,915. The surgery with the greatest extent of cost avoidance was Wychbury Medical Centre/Cradley Road Medical Practice, with a cost avoidance of £11,135 (from 306 referrals, of which 189 supported)
  • Through surveying of GPs, 100% of surgeries rated Integrated Plus as good or excellent, and 89% felt that the Link Officers added value to the current Multi-Disciplinary Team meetings. All surgeries agreed that Integrated Plus had helped to reduce inappropriate GP consultations, and most surgeries felt that “Reduces isolation and loneliness” was a key benefit for patients. Wider benefits included, “Our main Link Officer has an excellent rapport with our patients, nothing is too much trouble for him and he is literally only a phone call away. He attends all MTD meetings and has good input from the patients he sees.”

For more information you can read the full report here:

For more information, please contact Kate Green. Tel: 01384 573381.

Email: buildingblocks@dudleycvs.org.uk

Hearts and Crafts: A lifeline for people in Sedgley

Hearts and Crafts group based in Sedgley is a social group where people can take part in a range of arts and crafts activities in a welcoming and supportive environment. It’s a place where people can learn new skills from their peers, share knowledge and get creative! Perhaps more importantly, it’s a place that nurtures people as well as their creativity.

I was introduced to Hearts and Crafts by my colleague Georgia, who through her role as Integrated Plus Link Support Worker has referred people to this group as a way of helping them to be more connected in their local community. The group has been running for 4 years, and it’s co-ordinated by a team that shares all the practical tasks. In fact, it’s become so popular that they’ve set up another session on the same day so that more people can attend and take part in comfort. There were at least 25 people when I paid the group a visit recently as part of the work I’m doing with Age UK Dudley. The knitting table was particularly busy!

At Hearts and Crafts, there are opportunities to take part in a range of creative activities. There’s a table for knitting, needlework and crochet, a table dedicated to papercrafts and another table for painting. People are free to choose to do as much or as little as they please and as I chatted to some of the members it became clear that Hearts and Crafts was less about what they did and more about the friendships that have been made there.

One lady didn’t find it easy to be among new people or in new situations. She was introduced to the group after someone struck up conversation with her at a party where she didn’t know many people. That one connection led her to tentatively joining the group. Now she’s a regular and gets involved in the papercrafts, chatting to her new friends and helping each other to design cards. She told me that this is the only place she goes, so she really looks forward to it every week. She walks there and she’s certain going to Hearts and Crafts gives her purpose and keeps her fit and active.

Over on the knitting table, participants were making all kinds of things for themselves and for others, sharing skills and encouraging each other. I was told that one of the participants who was knitting with such dexterity was recovering from a stroke. It was obvious how much people value Hearts and Crafts as participants told me that attending had given them a sense of purpose.

On the busy painting table, people of all abilities were trying out working with watercolours and acrylic. A gentleman was helping two people who had come for the first time, reassuring them that the worst that could happen was that their paintings might end up in the bin! By the end of the session, the two people had painted beautiful landscapes and they were looking forward to coming again. It’s that kind of welcome and encouragement that has made Hearts and Crafts so popular.
When I asked the gentleman about his painting, he told me that he’d been to a class in the 1990s and realised it was harder than it looked at first. But he persevered and now helps his wife to decorate cards that she makes. He loves painting and told me that he can forget all of his troubles by becoming immersed in his creativity. He comes to Hearts and Crafts specifically to help others to get the same benefits.

Another lady told me that Hearts and Crafts was her lifeline, especially after she’d been through a difficult period in her life. She was full of admiration for the team members who make Hearts and Crafts happen every week. She said that the team got upset when the group was so big that team members couldn’t get around to everyone to have a conversation with them; that was the reason for setting up another session later that day. It felt like the team has really fostered a sense of belonging and family as I was told that the team members would text people if the session had to be cancelled to save them setting out; whenever anyone missed a week, someone would be in touch to check everything was ok. It’s the kind of belonging that would help anyone feel connected and wanted.

Capturing the character of amazing local volunteers

At the start of 2018 DCVS was invited to assist Midland Film And Art, a collection of artists, craft workers, writers, performers and film producers, who were applying to the Arts Council (England) for funding towards a Character Portraits Project. The idea for the project was to create 24 real-life portraits of volunteers from across Dudley and Sandwell in recognition of what volunteers do to help their local communities.

DCVS agreed to support the project and put forward the names of 12 Dudley volunteers, including our Chairman, Mike Abrahams.  The artists taking part included writers and actors, and all went through an application and selection process.

The project application was approved by Arts Council (England) and this wonderful project commenced.

The Dudley borough volunteers who had been nominated were celebrated in variety of creative formats including the written word, sculpture, portraits in oils, felt and graphite, and even a mutoscope!  MFAA recorded films to record the process for each piece of art and these are available on our YouTube Channel if you would like to watch them.

On 12th April we will be holding a celebration event where family and friends of the subjects, plus the artists and supporters involved from MFAA will have a final opportunity to see the original pieces. The Mayor of Dudley, Cllr Alan Taylor, will be presenting the originals to the subjects for them to keep.  Local art lovers are most welcome to pop in and see these amazing pieces for themselves between 3 and 4 pm on Friday 12th April, in the main hall at DY1 Venue, Stafford Street, Dudley DY1 1RT.

However, this will not be the last time you get to see these pieces as we have plans to convert images of the artwork onto canvas prints for public display, and for them to tour the borough displayed in various locations so everyone can enjoy them.

Over the next few months we will be sharing pictures of these wonderful creative pieces individually and telling you the stories behind these amazing volunteers who are featured in them.

One of the portraits will be on display in the café at DY1 Venue from 15th April until 30th June 2019.  Steve Mukanovic (Ford) passed away in late December and was a well-known local volunteer, who had also volunteered as a minibus driver for Dudley CVS.  As he had so many friends, Dudley CVS thought it would be appropriate for his portrait to be displayed in the café so that friends and family could pop in for a cuppa and reflect on their much loved friend and relative.  The portrait will hopefully be going to a permanent home where he volunteered for over 30 years, but we wanted to share this beautiful piece of art with the world before it goes to its final location.

Celebrating Integrated Plus as part of International Social Prescribing Day – Connecting and supporting for wellbeing and a sense of purpose

 

Dudley CVS has been delivering a social prescribing service for the nearly 5 years. In early 2014, Dudley CVS with support from Dudley Clinical Commissioning Group (Dudley CCG), identified an opportunity to develop and deliver an innovative, flexible and complementary service called ‘Integrated Plus’.

The service was set up to trial a different approach to supporting people in their own homes to ensure the non-clinical needs of patients are taken into account at the GP-led Multi-Disciplinary Team meetings (MDTs) established in 2014. Integrated Plus offers 1-2-1 social prescribing support to patients aged 16 and over who are:

  • At high risk of hospital admission
  • Frequently visiting their GP
  • Vulnerable and in need on non-clinical, social support

Our support is about enabling and facilitating connections with others, nurturing new friendships and helping people to find purpose in their lives. We focus on the whole person’s needs whatever they might be, to jointly find solutions to challenges faced. Our approach is about spending quality time with people, actively listening to their needs, goals and aspirations. We explore what is important to the person and help them to identify, amplify and reflect on their strengths, passions and skills. 99% of people we have connected with stated that spending quality time with them actively listening and exploring what they want to achieve as the most valuable component of our service.

Other key facts and stats

  • 4,326 referrals from GPs and at the MDT meetings. Of 4,326 we have connected with 3,132 people.
  • 81% reduction change in people that were not managing in the areas of finances but who are now getting appropriate support or now managing ok
  • 82% reduction change in people that were not managing their physical health but who are now getting support or now managing ok
  • 80% reduction change in people that were isolated and lonely but who are now accessing services/activities or no longer feel isolated or lonely
  • 8,719 outward referrals to organisations, 60% to the voluntary sector
  • Avoidable A&E attendances have reduced by 17% over a 12 month period after Integrated Plus interventions, cost avoidance totalling £58,305
  • Avoidable hospital admissions have reduced by 15% over a 12 month period after Integrated Plus interventions, cost avoidance totalling £751,400
  • Overall GP consultations have reduced by 15%, cost avoidance totalling £73,115

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Karen supported to find time for herself and regain her confidence

Karen was referred to Integrated Plus by her GP. She was diagnosed with depression and finding life difficult to cope with.  Karen is selfless and spends most of her time caring for others.  She has caring responsibilities for her mother, an aunt and a son who is disabled.  Despite her busy schedule, Karen is regarded as being positive and upbeat about herself and her life but while looking after everybody else her own mental health was deteriorating and she became unwell.

When Karen met the Locality Link Officer for Stourbridge, Wollescote and Lye she said she felt “Lost and exhausted and didn’t know what to do.” The Link Officer listened to Karen and discussed options for her to have some time concentrating on herself, regaining her confidence and doing something she would find helpful and worthwhile.  The Link Officer asked Karen what hobbies and interests she had and if she would like to do some activities. Karen said yes and the Link Officer agreed to accompany her to her first activity until she felt comfortable with her surroundings.  They went to the University of the 3rd Age in Stourbridge (U3A) and Karen enjoyed it and settled in a lot quicker than she thought she would.

Karen now has the confidence to attend on her own and has been to the U3A several times and is going to join the group as a member. She is looking forward to enrolling on a diverse programme of classes in the New Year, including, lace making, walking and tap dancing. She was surprised and pleased to find that the lace making course is taught by a neighbour and this has rekindled their friendship.

The Link Support Worker met Karen a couple of months later to do a follow up review and she said her mental health has significantly improved and that she is feeling much better. Karen has also grown in confidence and has attended some Carers Coffee Mornings and said this has been important in reducing the isolation and loneliness felt by many carers.

Karen has reconnected with neighbours and her wider community and has made new friends since being referred to Integrated Plus. She said she was very grateful for the “…impartial support from Integrated Plus.”  And without this support she said she would probably be “sat at home rocking back and forth in her chair not knowing what to do next.” With support from Integrated Plus and Karen’s desire to make changes she is looking forward to the future with renewed confidence and hope.

For more information contact: Kate Green. Email: buildingblocks@dudleycvs.org.uk

 

‘Fed up with looking at four walls? Then come and look at ours instead!’ – Senior Citizens Enterprise Woodwork Group

Based at the Meadow Road Youth Centre, the Senior Citizens Enterprise Woodwork Group, in Dudley, is a group for older people who are interested in woodwork.  It’s a fun and friendly environment offering older people a place to learn new or develop existing woodworking skills. It’s also a great place to find new friendships. The group has 23 members in total. Some members live on their own, some are widowers, some just like to get out of the house, make something and put their skills to good use! The oldest member, Ken, is 93 years old.

‘Fed up with looking at four walls? Then come and look at ours instead!’  That’s the motto of the Senior Citizens Enterprise Woodwork Group.

The wood workshop is fully equipped with modern tools and machinery. There really isn’t much that the group hasn’t made, and they’re always on the lookout for new projects to keep them occupied. They’ve kindly created cosy homes for many of the animals at Dudley Zoo, a castle hideout for the zoo’s female guinea pigs, a hotel for rabbits, bird, bat and red panda boxes. They’ve even built penguin boxes – they tell me that they have successfully bred since, so must have done a good job making them feel at home!

Members have also kindly given their time and skills to build a variety of bird habitats for the Midland Metro Alliance which will be installed along the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill route for the Midland Metro. It’s hoped that the bird boxes will attract a wide range of nesting birds.

They’ve built a bench for Acorns Children’s Hospice, nest boxes for local schools and they’re now looking to build Pine Marten boxes for an RSPB site in Shropshire.

The group acquire offcuts of wood donated by local businesses which enables them to build all of the items, these materials would otherwise have gone to landfill. They have even rescued supermarket trolleys from the canal and used the wheels to make wood replenishing trolleys that fit snuggly under the workbenches.

Steve is one of the youngest members of the group, he joined when he was 63 and mainly makes things for the family like shelving and benches. He tells me that people like to come to the workshop because they enjoy the camaraderie and they like to have a good laugh. A couple of members don’t look forward to the Christmas holidays as it just imposes on them coming to the workshop! They’ll open up again as soon as Boxing Day arrives, as long as there are two people in the workshop, for health and safety reasons, they will happily come in over Christmas!

Steve contacted Dudley CVS to get support to apply for a Dudley Community Forum Grant of £550. The application was successful, helping them to purchase sanding disks, belts, saw blades, machine saws and new router bits. They’ve also received £900 from Age UK, which they have used to buy a new router machine.

Dave is one of the founding members of the group, he’s made things including rocking horses and dolls houses. It usually takes him about 3 months to make a rocking horse which is made in blocks, glued together and then carved and painted. He’s also carved a shark out of wood, which sits on his fireplace at home.

Chairman Mick, is highly skilled on the woodturning lathes, he’s made fruit bowls and pens. He’s even made a beautifully carved walking stick.

Dave and Derek have a background in upholstery. Derek recently made an intricate money box. He enjoys coming to the workshop, but doesn’t like Thursdays much, as that’s when the workshop closes for the weekend!

Ken, the oldest member, is making clocks for his sons out of an old sideboard that belonged to his parents.

Bruce makes detailed wooden toy trains, plains and trucks. He finds his inspiration in woodwork books.

Bill is 84, he came to the workshop when he was 70, he started out as Chairman. He likes to make clocks and other things. He remembers the days when they used to walk around timber yards asking for offcuts of wood. He said “Coming here is good, we can discuss things over lunch, at our age, we don’t see anybody, pubs are too expensive and not good for you!’

George, the treasurer, likes to make boats with sails. He keeps them in his large shed, apparently, you have to go in sideways because of the number fabulous boats, lifeboats and submarines he has made.

All members are extremely skilled and talented. Some had skills before, some hadn’t, many have learnt skills from each other. All of their items are beautifully made and finished to a high standard.

The group originally started in the early 2000s when a few people were faced with redundancy from local businesses. It was suggested they go on other courses to re-skill, one of those was a woodwork course at Dudley College. When that closed down the group moved to Mons Hill in Dudley, then amalgamated with another group from Brierley Hill, it was then that they moved to Meadow Road Youth Centre where they have been based for over a decade now. They still use the original machinery that was donated by Dudley College over a decade ago.

The group has recently become a member of UK Men’s Sheds Association. Men’s Sheds provides support and guidance to individuals and groups across the UK, raising awareness of the social and health benefits of Men’s Sheds in reducing isolation, loneliness and in empowering local communities. Men’s Sheds supports individual groups to connect with new members of the community. They also provide advice and guidance on starting up and running a shed providing practical information guides, example documents and toolkits on topics such as registering as a charity, insurance, funding, sourcing equipment and venues, and volunteer recruitment.

To anyone who might be interested to join, they would say, “Come in, do your own thing, we’ve got heating, toilets and cups of tea to keep us nice and warm! What more could you want?”

To find out more about the group visit https://bit.ly/2WxNlHd