“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

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

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.

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

 

Discover U – Providing work-related experience to adults with disabilities

Based in Wollaston, Discover U is a vibrant and welcoming space providing work-related experience to adults with disabilities. Discover U is not a daycare centre, it’s a charity working to support people who face barriers when getting into employment. It’s an environment where people can prosper and grow, fulfil their goals and reach their potential, a place to learn social, emotional, functional and employability skills. The people that go there are supported by volunteers to set their own goals and are helped to achieve them.

Discover U has a well-equipped wood workshop, garden area, front tea room and upstairs sewing room, most of which are busy every day. With materials donated by local businesses, they are able to turn unwanted pieces of wood, fabrics and bottles (some of which donated by the Brierley Hill Civic) into beautifully handcrafted and saleable items. They even have donations of fruit from people in the local community which they use to make cakes for the tea room. It’s now a community hub where local people can pop in for a hot drink, a cake, and look at all the wonderful items for sale.

You only have to look around the workshop to see the passion to learn, the creativity, the enjoyment and sense of pride in the products they have made. Everywhere you look there are beautifully made high-quality products, Bee Hotels, bird boxes, bottle lights, knitted tea cosies, cushions, chairs, you name it…they have probably made it! They even made our wooden awards for the Dudley CVS Volunteer Awards last year.

It’s a wonderful hive of activity. Lorna is busy drawing up ideas for her next recycled bottle project; she shows us her sketchbook full of ideas and designs. James has invested his time learning about safeguarding and what you need to do to keep people safe. Thanks to James, Discover U is now recognised as a Safe Place to visit in Dudley. Kieran is busy tidying up the cabin shop showing us the variety of products for sale. Darren tells us how he wants to work as a painter and decorator having learnt painting skills in the workshop.

Discover U members come from a variety of backgrounds, together they are building a vibrant, fun and pleasant working environment.

Everybody plays an important part, whether it’s in the design of a new concept, the manufacturer or the sale of a product at the end. Everybody’s involved in the process right from the very start and they take pride in what they’re doing.

In the workshop, they are supervised and learn how to use power tools. When they have passed their food hygiene course they can then work in the kitchen and serve customers. Operating the till helps them to learn about money management, it also helps them to improve their social skills by interacting with customers.

Steve Smith, one of the founders of Discover U, tells us of how for so long they have been told ‘you can’t do it because…’, at Discover U, volunteers will support people to do tasks on their own, build their confidence and tell them ‘you can do it!’

We hope you enjoy this short film we have made to spotlight this amazing group in Dudley.

If you would like to find out more about Discover U, visit their website www.discoveru2015.org or Facebook page. Or why not pay them a visit? They are open Mon-Thu from 9.30 until 4, they also have a stall at Kingswinford market on most Saturdays during the warmer months.

 

Bored to Tears

There are over 6000 people in Dudley who have been diagnosed with COPD, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, and most likely many more undiagnosed. COPD might be something you have never even heard of – or might affect you personally, but it is a condition that is supported by the Dudley Airtime group. The group is facilitated by Integrated Plus, a Dudley CVS social prescribing project,  have been meeting since 2016 at DY1 Community Building on Stafford Street, where the group is held each Thursday from 1pm. The aim of the group, funded through The Health Foundation, and most recently through Dudley Clinical Commissioning Group and Public Health, is to provide a peer-led group supporting people with respiratory conditions, to reduce social isolation and take pressure off the NHS by reducing hospital admissions and GP surgery appointments that relate to the disease, by providing a safe, caring environment for people to learn how to control and manage their condition better, meet with others experiencing similar challenges, and to take part in enjoyable activities, with lashings of tea and cake of course.

Airtime Dudley has made a particular impact on the life of Angela, who has been attending the group since August 2016. At this time, Angela was feeling increasingly low in mood, had become very isolated, and had no peer groups – in fact she was, in her own words, “bored to tears”.

Angela has made many friends through attending Airtime, and being part of the group has had a wider impact on her, and others. She now supports Airtime through identifying speakers to attend and present to the group. Through Airtime, Angela came into contact with Healthwatch Dudley and gave a talk to The Peoples Network about Airtime. She went on to become a member of The Peoples Network and now supports recruitment within the NHS, and sits on the Voluntary Sector Innovation Fund panel. She was also part of a team tasked with simplifying Dudley Safeguarding online process. Angela keeps a portfolio of all the work she does with Dudley Healthwatch and The Peoples Network, and explained that ‘I would never have been connected with the if it wasn’t for Airtime’

Angela has also gone on to support the creation of a general social group – ‘Friday Friends’, and has supported people with other conditions, such as ME, to make friends and connect. She has even completed a sponsored walk for The Lung Foundation, raising £100. Angela also has begun to meet some new friend’s she has made at a local social club.

Along with some other members of the Airtime Group, Angela worked on simplifying information for Dudley Council employees. A large book, detailing many long term health conditions and illnesses. These are now condensed to a simple A4 handout, giving a brief explanation of each condition or illness.

Through Winter Warmth attending Airtime to give a talk on their services, Angela has had a new boiler installed at home, as well as a wet room and stair lift installed into her property after Winter Warmth put her in contact with Dudley Home Improvement Service.

Angela has kept a portfolio of all the work she has been involved in with the council and Healthwatch Dudley, and is very proud of the changes she has helped to implement. Angela said that she would never have been in a position to be asked to do this work without being a member of Airtime. It was due to Airtime that those connections were made and cultivated.

The Airtime project was evaluated by Coventry University, who has produced a short video on their findings, in which Angela, and other members of the group feature below.

 

Angela feels coming to the group have transformed her life. ‘Airtime has given me quality of life, has built my confidence and I have made lots of good friends. We’re not labelled at no good, not fit for anything…I’ve had a new lease of life.

Airtime Dudley is free and runs each Thursday from 1pm – 3pm at DY1 Community Building, Stafford Street, Dudley, DY1 1RT and is open to anyone suffering with a chronic ling conditions such as COPD, pulmonary fibrosis or bronchiectasis.

Friday Friends is also based at the DY1 Community Building, and runs on the second and last Friday of each month from 1pm – 3pm. A small charge of £1 is asked to cover refreshments and is open to the general public looking to meet with others and socialise.

New members are welcome, and for any further information please feel free to contact Terry Gee on 01384 217056

A place to connect and make lasting friendships: Lye Men’s Group

The idea for The Men’s Group began in 2015 when my colleague Nick Tromans, the Integrated Plus Locality Link Officer for Stourbridge, Wollescote and Lye, had a high number of referrals for men with similar mental health needs and social isolation.  This led Nick to Reverend Simon Falshaw the Vicar from Christ Church in Lye and they discussed the need to offer a place for men to come and connect with each other.  The church was interested in supporting the idea and offered the church hall as a place to host the group.  A successful funding bid to the Near Neighbours Fund was approved and this helped start the group and pay for room hire.

The main factor for the success of the group is the volunteers who help run the group, they set up the room, serve refreshments and ensure a warm and friendly welcome to everybody who attends.  They can empathise with the group because they have had similar experiences and are well placed to offer peer to peer support.  Andrew was the first volunteer and he fostered an atmosphere of calm, respect and empathy.  Unfortunately, Andrew died suddenly in 2017 but his ethos remains within the group. Nick and I are involved in some aspects of the running of the group but the volunteers are the mainstay of the group and are vital and committed to its ongoing success.

The group has blossomed and three years on it is still going strong.  We have men aged from 19 to 90 in the group.  Over 130 men have attended the group in total and there are around 20-25 men from a pool of about 40 who attend every week.  Over the past few years we have had lots of activities at the group including, Get Cooking courses, glass engraving, bread making and well-being sessions.  The group also have regular cooked breakfasts, pool and darts tournaments and celebrations for Eid and Christmas.  There is no pressure for anybody to be involved in the activities and they are welcome to come and have a cup of tea and do their own thing.

Peer support reduces loneliness and isolation and improves self-esteem and confidence, this is certainly evident in the group.  Many positive and enduring friendships have been made by those attending the group.  People attend together and those in the group with limited mobility and difficulty attending have lifts arranged with friends they have met in the group.  If somebody has not attended in a while people rally round and see if they can help.  Friends meet outside of the group and do social activities together and meet at each other’s homes independent of the group, some have even gone on holiday together.  Another major reason for the success of the group is the non-judgemental attitude of all who attend and volunteer, it is inspiring and makes for a smoothly run and supportive group.

Barry began attending the group supported by his wife and Nick and has now become a regular attendee.  He has made new friends who he looks forward to spending time with in the group.  His friendships have developed further and he now meets up with his new friends outside of the group at home and in social situations.  Barry said he was not aware of any groups or activities like this in his local area and he said the group and the friendships he has made have ‘lifted me off the floor and given me something to look forward to.’

Those men who attend who can afford to make a donation can contribute to the running of the session.  Using an asset-based approach and working in partnerships with the local council and other organisations has enabled the group to run for little cost and has further helped the success of the group.

If you would like more information about the Men’s Group contact gary@dudleycvs.org.uk

Find out more about how Integrated Plus are supporting people to become more involved, connected and active in their communities at https://integratedplusblog.com/about/

Building friendships for people with dementia and their carers in Brierley Hill

Meet Paul and Alison. They’re the team behind the lovely Alzheimer’s and Friendship Group that meets at the Storehouse in Brierley Hill on most Monday evenings. It’s a place where people with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia and their carers can come to meet others, share mutual support and make friends.

I visited them recently to learn more about them and what the group means to the people that attend.

As soon as I got to the door, I was greeted by Paul, who welcomed me into the Storehouse coffee shop which was laid out nicely so that everyone could see and talk to each other, or talk in smaller groups if they wanted to. I introduced myself to everyone and soon people started telling me their own stories about caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, which I think was a sign of how comfortable they felt in their surroundings.

Paul and Alison clearly have time for everyone who walks through the door, helping them to feel welcome, wanted and comfortable. This is something that they’ve been doing for the past nine years; I was bowled over to learn that the group had been going for that long, just over the road from my office!

Back in 2009, Paul, who has a background of working with people with dementia, met someone who couldn’t go out because of their caring role. In response to this, he and Alison, who worked with older people, thought about providing respite, a space for people with dementia while their carers got some time to themselves. They spoke to Albion Street Church, who agreed to let Paul and Alison use some space, first in the church itself and then in the Storehouse when it was refurbished. The Church also holds a small budget for the group which they can dip into for things like refreshments and entertainment, though they rarely use it and make sure it goes a long way!

Over the years, the group has been flexible to the wishes of its participants. While some carers have brought their loved ones and taken advantage of the respite offered, other carers have stayed with their loved ones and participated in the activities. At the moment, the regular participants are all former carers, who continue to attend for the companionship they have gained over the years; none of the participants knew each other before they started attending the group. Some come from as far as Sedgley because of their shared experiences of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s. As we all shared our emotional experiences of loving and losing someone with Alzheimer’s, it did feel good to take some solace from people who had experienced it too. I can completely see how the Alzheimer’s and Friendship Groups helps people to feel less isolated.

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On the evening of my visit, we were treated to some entertainment from Rachel a talented  musician, who played a range of pieces on saxophone. As a music obsessive myself, this was a peaceful treat and I think everyone enjoyed it! In fact, Alzheimer’s Society says that

evidence suggests that the brain processes music differently to other functions, allowing people with dementia to enjoy songs and music long after other abilities are challenged.

Rachel is connected to the Church herself and she gave her time and skills freely to entertain us for a couple of hours on a Monday night. This group really is a great example of how great things can happen with the right ingredients: people with a passion; a friendly venue and a supportive organisation behind them; good connections which can be mobilised for very little outlay. This is why I hadn’t heard of the group before: they have everything they need to succeed!

Of course, this group is open to new members, whether they’re carers, cared-for, or both. So if you’re interested in making new friends in a supportive environment, the Alzheimer’s a Friendship Group meets on Monday evenings February-December (except bank holidays), 6pm onwards.

It’s wonderful that the Alzheimer’s and Friendship Group exists. According to figures from Alzheimer’s Society:

  • 225,000 people will develop dementia this year – one every three minutes
  • There are 670,000 carers of people with dementia in the UK
  • In 2015, an estimated 850,000 people were living with dementia

So there’s room for groups like this and others to create supportive environments for carers and their loved ones. In fact, in Coseley residents have been coming together to develop a Dementia Friendly Cinema to help people with dementia to stay connected in their community. Using a wonderful guide from Alzheimer’s Society to make small adaptations to help people with dementia feel safe and supported, they’ve had one screening and are planning another soon. The next screening will be Some Like It Hot on Tuesday 16 October, at 2pm. To register for this, please visit the Coseley Community Cinema page.

If you’d like to get more involved with either the Alzheimer’s and Friendship Group or the Coseley Dementia Cinema, then please feel free to get in touch and I’ll link you with them.