The Social Opportunities Project
What do we do?
The Social Opportunities Project provides one to one support for people with long term mental health issues who struggle to access larger group activities. Each individual is given up to 3 hours a week of one-to-one support, working with both the service user and their carer to determine suitable activities that the sessional worker can then do with the service user to get them out of the house and give their carer a short period of respite. This support allows them the opportunity to take part in a wide range of day-to-day activities within both ordinary settings and with established mental health groups, thus enabling them to rebuild their confidence and self-esteem out in their local community.
What sort of activities?
That’s entirely up to the individual receiving the service. The objective of the project is to encourage people who have generally become very isolated to get out and have the opportunity to take up old hobbies that they used to enjoy, but for one reason or another no longer get to do, or to start new ones. Our current service users have been enjoying:-
- visiting the cinema.
- going out for meals or just having a coffee and a chat.
- dropping in a Mahoney’s – Vale of Clwyd Mind’s social group.
- days out to the zoo or nature reserves.
- participating in yoga and other keep fit classes.
- playing crazy golf.
- ten pin bowling.
- learning various crafts, such as crochet.
- computer classes.
The potential list of activities is endless. Whatever people would like to have a go at (within reason) we will be right there with them to encourage and help them every step of the way, until the time when we are not required anymore.
From time to time we might have a group meeting so that all our service users can get to meet each other, the other sessional workers and the project manager.
Who pays for this?
We think that it is really important that if service users are going to make long-term progress then they need to be able to continue with the activities after we have withdrawn. With that in mind we decided that service users should pay for their own activities so that they become used to doing so, and we will pay for the sessional workers expenses. We also pay the support worker and generally cover the transport costs (unless using public transport which is part of the care plan). By doing this, each service user is able to work within their own budget, enabling them to continue with the activities later should they wish to do so.
When do people go out?
We work hard to ‘fit’ around the needs of our service users, but generally we tend to go out in the daytime or early evening because that is when we can access a good range of activities and we know that people can get a little nervous at night. Our staff have other jobs and family commitments so, although we try to be flexible, it really does depend on when staff are available. Everything that we do is by mutual agreement – we might encourage but we never ever force service users to do something that they really do not wish to do.
How can I take part in the ‘Social Opportunities project’?
Referrals come to us via the Community Mental Health Teams in Rhyl and Denbigh, so anyone who thinks that the ‘Social Opportunities’ project might be good for them should speak to their CPN or social worker in the first instance. We do not have a long list of ‘rules’, but anyone we work with must meet some basic criteria:-
- they must live in Denbighshire.
- they must have a carer, such as a family member or friend who helps them out from time to time, this does not necessarily need to be someone who lives with them.
- they must continue to receive support from mental health teams in either Rhyl or Denbigh.
We must point out that we cannot help everyone who applies because our funding only enables us to work with ten people at any one time. Whilst we hope people will make new friends and not need us anymore, realistically most will require our support for quite long periods of time. However nobody should be put off applying, if we can show that there is a greater need for this work then we may be able to obtain extra funding for further development.
Surely people could do these ‘activities’ anyway?
I agree. Most people who are healthy are able to do these things. We all take for granted being out and about and making new friends along the way. For some people, however, their lives are very restricted because of their mental health and they sink further into depression, often not even wanting to get out of bed in the mornings, which makes the problem even worse. By giving them the opportunity to make new friends and try new activities they hopefully, will then have a reason to get up in the mornings.
Couldn’t their families give this support?
Of course – and they do most of the time. However by giving 3 hours every week we not only give more opportunities for the person who has poor mental health , but we also give the families (and others who provide 24/7 care) a bit of a break from their caring responsibilities. It can be really challenging trying to motivate someone who sees little point in doing anything – try doing it for 3 hours and you will see what we mean! So you can imagine what it could be like at home every day.
If it’s so worthwhile, why only 3 hours a week for each person?
Well I am afraid that it is all about economics. We receive a Carers Grant to pay for the support workers time, which is great but it only covers the cost of supplying 3 hours support per week for up to ten people at any one time. In an ideal world we would take people out more than once a week if so required, and we would make the service available to whoever required it, however this can only happen by receiving large donations from the public or grants.
What if I start and then decide I don’t like it?
No problem. Obviously we like our service users to make a commitment to the project and go out every week, mainly because other people are waiting for a chance to make use of us. However, we know that sometimes people can be unwell and going out is the last thing they want to do. It IS OK to cancel sometimes, as long as you let us know and feel that you are participating enough to benefit from the times that you do go.
Ok I’m hooked – what do I do next?
If you work for one of the mental health teams and would like to refer a client to the project, there is a downloadable form at the bottom of this page. If you are unsure whether one of your clients might be a suitable referral, please pick up the phone and have a chat with one of us.
If you receive a service from one of the mental health teams, meet the criteria, feel isolated and think you would like a sessional worker to help in getting you out a little more, then have a word with your CPN to see if they can refer you. Please remember that it is not possible to help everyone and your CPN is not being mean if they feel it may not be suitable for you.
Also please understand that the team will tell us a bit about you and we, in turn, will report back to them to let them know how your are getting on with us. This is purely for Health and Safety purposes and most of what you discuss with your sessional worker will be treated in confidence.
Please contact Nicola Monday for further details:
Tel: 01745 351635
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