Spectrum People started our response to Covid-19 on 23 March and continues to provide virtual social prescribing. Those we support were contacted to ask if they wanted regular telephone calls and/or to be linked up to other people to support each other via a ‘befriending’ scheme. In the first 12 weeks 437 virtual calls were made, many lasting much longer than the 20 minutes originally offered. A rota was worked by the team, including weekends. Some people needed very frequent support, others a weekly call. We have sent cards of encouragement out to remind them we are still here to give support.
With a number of those we support having enduring and significant mental health issues we devised a document to help promote the prevention of suicide with links to free online training and support helplines. This was nationally distributed.
Our art therapist changed her practice to being remote and safely delivering materials to client’s homes. Spectrum run Appletree Allotment, Appletree is now being used for 1:1 support by our art therapists and we look forward to working with 3 NCS groups in July and August. Each group will spend a week on site helping get Appletree shipshape after lockdown.
Our social media output increased, and we now run blogs on art and Appletree garden. We were instrumental in the e-Postcards from Wakefield, connecting people in West Yorkshire and around the globe. A campaign to make angels out of recyclable materials that anyone, anywhere could make is underway. Packs and instructions have been delivered widely throughout Wakefield.
We are proud of the way our very small, part-time team worked cohesively and immediately to change the way we work. Providing daily phone support to Dawn – an artist and campaigner for change for those surviving traumata. She has continued painting and writing poetry throughout, giving an outlet for her thoughts and feelings, and supported by our team. Two of her paintings have been made into commemorative keyrings to help raise money towards getting two books published. 2020, The Other Side, a book of her poetry and paintings will be published shortly.
“Writing poetry and doing paintings gave me a purpose not to take those pills and end it all. I say thank you for saving my life”.
We are proud of the support shown to each other as well as those we support. We have had to deal with some difficult challenges including people with suicidal thoughts and working unconventional hours to support those in need. We have much positive feedback about the support we have given.
Through our social prescribing service, we give individuals the time they need to open up completely, with conversations lasting anything from 20 mins to 3 hours. Through supported coaching they identify what small actions they can take and how we can help them get underway. In the beginning we helped people who were shielding find the right hubs for support with groceries and medication deliveries. This became less needed and the demand and focus was keeping in regular contact with people by telephone. We have provided activities – virtually and delivered to their door, but also given information on how to keep themselves safe, how to keep themselves healthy and occupied along with links to other useful websites etc.
The key lessons we’ve learnt are: -
- the value of feeling cared for
- the value of someone taking time to actively listen to someone’s issues, whatever these have been
- that simple acts of kindness, offering remote support in the way of a phone call, can keep someone away from harmful behaviour.
- That sharing good practice and resources amongst voluntary groups and the public sector can help those we support in a more holistic way.
- The value of supervision within teams to keep them feeling supported
- That for some working from home is less stressful, yet more productive
- The value of outside space, fresh air and nature
Moving forward we will continue to put into our practice the lessons we have learned and continue to find new and better ways of helping individuals find ways to support themselves. We will do this by regular evaluation of our service from their perspective and our own self-reflection.