The aim of our Elevate Project was to develop and sustain positive community connections for our service users and our service. We believe that the connections between services in our region could be improved, and that the stressors on services are exacerbated by the lack of communication between key intervention and support providers involved in a service users’ journey. Through taking part in the Elevate Programme we hoped to become more of a conduit in promoting communication, building positive rapport, and linking appropriate services to service user need.
The project worked with clients who are furthest from the labour market with significant health/wellbeing issues and who live in designated super output areas. It offered a range of engagement-based activities which helped to increase awareness and knowledge of the key barriers facing clients in relation to health and wellbeing. Activities included dance classes, food & nutrition sessions, cooking on a budget, health screening and classes raising awareness on specific issues e.g., Women’s Wellbeing. Through the project we were able to create a range of appropriate supports, warm referral points and connect with suitable people to actively communicate client need.
The feedback from participants within the groups was excellent, we wanted to ensure that we delivered a programme that promoted awareness of health inequalities, and both directly and indirectly encouraged people to actively participate in activities aimed at both creating connections with peers and with a range of health and wellbeing related services and schemes.
The feedback received was that the directness and openness from staff in sharing our own experiences (on potentially taboo subjects) made it easier for everyone to engage. Participants reported that creating a space where difficult conversations could be shared in a safe environment with a facilitator, made them more comfortable to share. As a result of taking part people said they have become more aware of their options for accessing support for example in relation to issues such as menopause awareness and prostate care. Through the mentoring support we were able to benefit from the depth of knowledge provided by our mentor and gain access to a wider support network. This has made us more aware of other support and services that exist, and we have been able to share this information with our clients.
Taking part in the Elevate programme has developed a deeper understanding of the need to delve further into the cause rather than deal with the effect. In the fast-paced environment in which we work, we sometimes have lost the need to connect properly with our service users, this programme has given us a reboot. It has allowed us to re-evaluate the core issues and look to refine our offer in relation to the range of supports the programme offers.
We gained a better understanding of the social determinants of health and key health needs of the people we support, many of whom live in areas of high deprivation. Following the training we explored NISRA statistics and the latest HSCIMS reports, and the team were able to break down the specific areas of concern within our geographical remit. This helped us develop more person-centred support and consider the wide range of factors that could be influencing an individual’s health and what barriers to engaging they might be facing. Completing the training encouraged us to build and create a variety of different pathways and connections with services and provision that we had not previously utilised. We also developed an understanding of the need to ask the difficult questions and pursue supports in key areas relating to health, wellbeing, and welfare.
Unfortunately, the challenging funding environment within the C/V sector has had a significant impact on our work and resulted in the ending of some long-term projects and staff redundancies. Both staff involved in the Elevate Project are no longer in post. However, as a wider team we plan to use the learning and experience gained through the Elevate Project to help inform future projects especially in relation to addressing health inequalities.
"The elevate programme has given us a range of support options that previously would have meant that we couldn’t turn thought and ambition into reality, utilising the project and having both the finances but also the autonomy to create pathways to tackling key issues related to evident health inequalities in our areas has been immense."
Gerard Fox, Acting Operations Manager, West Belfast Job Asist Centre