In 2020, NHS Charities Together announced a £30 million grants programme across England. The programme recognised that the NHS relies on partnerships in the voluntary, community, faith and social enterprise sectors and aims to encourage and support these partnerships across geographical areas that help communities affected by COVID-19. The expectation was that the funding should be used for projects that benefit the NHS and VCSE sector across each STP/ICS. The Colchester and Ipswich Hospitals Charity was asked by NHS Charities Together to administer the grant of £445,532 on behalf of the Suffolk and North East Essex ICS.
The Suffolk and North East Essex ICS Partnership Board agreed to use the opportunity to deploy this funding donated by members of the public in Suffolk and North East Essex to NHS Charities Together to make a difference to those communities that we know have been hardest hit by the Covid19 pandemic – those from ethnic minority and deprived communities. The programme reflects the following established system priorities, values and commitments:
- our primary ambition to enable health equality for everyone;
- building sustainable partnerships and collaboration between NHS, local government and VCSE organisation with a focus on our three locality alliances;
- our commitment to co-production with individuals and community groups with lived experience;
- an approach that contributes to building capacity and sustainability in the voluntary and community sector;
delivering measurable impact underpinned by an outcome based approach that enables benefits that should improve outcomes.
Six projects from across our three Alliance areas were chosen as part of a successful proposal on behalf of our ICS to NHS Charities Together, for a two-year programme which began in June 2021. They are:
North East Essex
Bangladeshi Women’s Association Essex
- For the first time in BWAE’s history, we were able to run events and a training programme for Bangladeshi women to build their confidence and, empower them to go forward into the job market and give them the confidence to speak publicly. All 15 of our volunteers attended and graduated the training scheme delivered by African Families in the UK organisation, with four of them achieving part-time jobs. Our volunteers and the whole community benefitted, seeing what was achievable and what they could do.
- We held our first-ever mental health workshops with the Muslim community in March 2022, reaching 150 people to discuss their mental health. You can read more in the case study below, and you can read the full report of the event here.
- We designed and surveyed our community’s health needs, and in September 2022 produced a report and recommendations for policy and decision-makers to address them (see case study below). We have also taken initiatives to help our community live a more healthy lifestyle, including helping a number of people to access and use bicycles safely.
- We carry out outreach work in our local community, and over time the demand has increased significantly. We have been supporting people with the cost of living by obtaining and giving out winter packs and food vouchers.
- Our luncheon club and allotment project help our community deal with mental health and isolation. This video showcases our allotment in Colchester.
- We participated in many local activities to enhance networking, for example, a rice festival and International Women’s Day. And we attended local meetings to establish links and raise the profile of BWAE.
African Families in the UK
- Our Big Garden provides the therapeutic benefit of working outdoors and tending and doing physical work that helps to engage the mind. Participants make new friends and share experiences, and benefit from the achievement of sowing, watching the plants growing, eating the harvested produce, and learning new skills. Watch a video of our Big Garden.
- We have held ‘Black Men Mental Health Matters’ workshops, and are working to create a space for black men to express their vulnerabilities and a platform that allows the community to support each other.
- Our family work includes our Mama and Toddler Programme where mamas can mix with other mamas and can share their experiences, and toddlers can mingle with other toddlers and play with each other.
- Our youth clubs in Colchester and Harwich support young people to develop socially and build confidence. You can learn more here.
- Our women’s walk is a huge success and is now done in collaboration with Active Essex.
- We are collaborating with St Helena’s Hospice regarding end-of-life care and palliative care for elders of our communities and supporting the Hospice in making the much needed culturally adaptive measures that will attract members from our communities.
- Our First Community Ambassador conference was held on the 20th October 2021, and it was a huge success and well attended by the entire community. Our Co-founder and Director, Rachel Walton, launched her book, The Ambassador, during the conference. This book represents the template of Community Interest organisations and the important role of the ambassador.
- We have worked closely with the Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care Board’s maternity programme to tackle inequalities faced by ethnic minority women and babies. We held training held in June 2022 for our Maternity Ambassadors, covering a range of topics including birth expectations, where to find information and choice, power and consent. Since then, we have also contributed to the development of a set of videos to support culturally sensitive practice in maternity care. You can read more here.
Ipswich and East Suffolk
Unity Centre – a collaborative partnership
- Active Suffolk has been delivering the Active Wellbeing Service one day a week, supporting older adults (50+) with their physical activity levels. The service has been working to build relationships with the local GP surgeries.
- Active Suffolk has offered Functional Fitness MOTSs for older adults, a set of tests based on everyday movements, with a group of values that help determine areas of improvement. Thrice-weekly Health Walks are led by ex-professional footballer Ruel Fox, and offer an opportunity for social interaction and physical activity, with refreshments and a space for conversation provided by Combat2Coffee.
- Suffolk Refugee Support (SRS) and Active Suffolk have collaborated to deliver activity and social sessions in a welcoming environment for the Syrian Men’s Group, including Boccia, Carpet Bowls, and dominoes, and weekly Keep Fit classes for SRS’s Women’s Group and their children.
- PHOEBE has a sewing club for local Black, Asian and minority ethnic women, an opportunity to build new friendships, learn a new hobby and improve their mental health and wellbeing.
- PHOEBE also delivers a cooking and baking classes in the Unity Centre kitchen, where children interact with other families and learn appropriate social behaviours such as sharing and cooperation.
- Fresh Start New Beginnings is delivering counselling for young people and has been building relationships with ethnic minority communities and local organisations to encourage referrals for support.
- Fresh Start New Beginnings worked with YMCA to deliver an awareness session to increase the understanding of Islam and acts of child abuse. The session was also shared with the staff of the Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children’s team.
- Regular events have been held to raise awareness of the centre and to provide space for outreach services to improve access to health and care information and advice for the local community.
Volunteering Matters and Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Race Equality
- In Year 1, the project engaged young people from ethnic communities in Ipswich to co-produce health-focused solutions to address the health inequalities that exist in their communities. The project has supported young people from ethnic minority communities from different age groups.
- The project created a network of young Health Ambassadors across Ipswich, with problems articulated from a community informed perspective where the young were the experts and the leaders were the novices.
- We delivered the Health Ambassador Programme in a range of settings for different age groups. We were then able to showcase some of the data/material collected to crucial leaders in Health Care services. Our Health Ambassadors also held a VIP meeting with the Director and the team of ISCRE to understand the root causes of health inequalities better. We also collaborated with the #iwill UK-Wide movement to elevate the voice of our Suffolk Young Health Ambassadors.
- You can see a Videoour Young Health Ambassadors have created.
- I-Rise Up group supporting the creation of the 3 Days Intensive Health Ambassadors Network created a Leaflet.
- The Young Health Ambassadors Network the project has also supported the delivery of a YAS (Young Ambassadors Summer) Get Together focusing on enabling some of our Health Young Ambassadors to ask deeper questions about their relationships and access to Health Services within their communities; Health Ambassadors Programme delivered in schools in Ipswich to support the network of our current Health Ambassadors; workshop on Health Inequalities in the Ipswich community at the Ipswich and East Suffolk Community Connect event; and focused on mental health in Black History Month 2022.
- Data from the I-Rise Consulting Youth Group about access to Health Services within Ipswich, main health problems raised by young people and their concerns.
- The aims of our project are to work with schools and faith groups, to fill the gaps and provide support for vulnerable families around mental health issues, reducing isolation, building confidence and increasing access to health services.
- We are focusing on engaging local Urdu speaking and other minority parents in supporting others, accessing a range of community resources and begin to form a small group of parents that will work within that community and school, assessing needs and provision.
- At the outset we completed a comprehensive Needs Assessment with vulnerable families in the town around family health and wellbeing. Our activities are the result of the results of this assessment and co-production of programmes for local parents and children.
- We are working with Urdu-speaking and other minority ethnic communities in partnership with schools and faith organisations in Newmarket. Our project has engaged and supported families through schools and the community. We partnered with schools, the Catholic church and the community church, and we have worked in partnership with the children’s centre and NHS vaccination programme. In addition, we made positive links with Suffolk Mind, GP surgery, Lifelines and voluntary organisations.
- Our mental health support for children includes sessions on Managing low mood, Mindfulness Resilience, Managing anxiety, and Supporting children with anxiety
- Our post-natal group is delivered in partnership with the local Children’s Centre Health Visiting Team, Citizen’s, Advice Bureau, and Cervical Screening Team
- We are also supporting parents through regular themed coffee mornings – including our weekly International Women’s group with several nationalities represented including, Romanian, Spanish, polish and Nigerian; and a weekly school coffee morning with topics co-produced with parents, including e-safety, maths development, and phonics. While the group is not just for international families, the majority of regular attendees are.
Across Suffolk and North East Essex
Ladies of Suffolk, Essex and Norfolk
- The first year of our project centred predominantly on the training of Health Coach volunteers (see our case study below). We continue to deliver health coaching to our members, including advice on healthy living as well as emotional support.
- We have since created our African Well Woman website https://ladiesofsuffolkess.wixsite.com/african-well-woman-p where people can find out more about the work we do.
- We will be holding our African Well Woman online conference in March 2023, where participants can expand their understanding of the health and well-being of African women and learn about The African Well Woman Cookbook, a vital resource for empowering individuals in our community through cuisine. This recipe book, by Ladies of SEN and co-authored with Noma Creates, is now on sale.