Regular visitors to our ‘News’ pages will know that the Sandwell Early Help Innovation Fund (SEHIF) was launched in November 2015 to enable local voluntary groups and not-for-profit/charitable organisations to deliver preventative community-based interventions for children and families in Sandwell.
Funding has been available at two levels; Small Grants (up to £5,000) and Large Grants (between £5,001 and £15,000) and to-date the fund has approved 18 grants, split evenly between large and small.
A snapshot of some of the projects funded so far was recently published here: https://www.scvo.info/sandwell-early-help-innovation-fund-the-story-so-far/ and this article is designed to take you a little ‘deeper’ into one of those projects.
Local charity Ideal for All was awarded a grant in the second round of funding earlier this year to deliver their ‘Early Help’ engagement model – a three stage process of:
1. Engaging outreach sessions: ‘hands on’ gardening, food growing, cooking, healthy eating awareness workshops and short courses delivered in community facilities as a referral route into the main programme;
2. Focused intensive sessions lasting 1-3 hours, once a week, for a minimum of 6 weeks where participants undertake meaningful seasonal activities in a practical, inspiring and alternative setting to the classroom (using food, gardening, basic skills, crafts/creative, games and cooking-related activities to reach stated outcomes);
3. Sustained progression pathways and sign-posting: including further volunteering options, progress to further skills courses and sustained development of co-produced, self-managed voluntary groups, meeting once a month across a variety of venues.
So, how have they got on?
Here’s a selection of feedback from participants at some of the outreach (Engaging) sessions:
“I like it because I made it myself and I love it so much and it is so yummy”
“There really, really needs to be more of this kind of service and/or groups available in Smethwick. It enables families like mine to be more involved in healthy eating and it’s a great opportunity for communities to meet.”
“Wow this far exceeded expectations we have planted, picked and weeded along with learning where food comes from we tasted physalis (never had this before) my kids loved discovering plants and picking too.”
“…picking fruit and veg, learnt about nature, eating fresh veg, learnt to make wraps so will be making some at home, lovely to wander around, organic food.”
“Showed how you can make dips without using unhealthy foods”
“Learned to plant salads and use compost, working muscles digging”
Moving into stages 2 and 3, here’s a short case study that tells Prasad’s story (name changed):
Prasad came to the programme as someone who had worked all his adult life but who had recently been made redundant from a full time job that he was passionate about. As a result he felt despondent and ‘hopeless’ about his future and in need of a new direction. Though he had many skills relating to his previous role, many of these were not considered to be relevant to the jobs he was applying for. He was concerned about mounting debts and falling into a cycle of reliance on support services and welfare payments.
As a result of wanting to develop a new skill set and to re-build his confidence and self-esteem, Prasad was directed to Ideal for All and took part in our floristry course and gardening programme for 6 weeks. Since then he has received ongoing support to pursue new opportunities and reduce reliance on welfare benefits.
Prasad has been a keen participant and very willing to share his progress with staff and fellow participants to ‘stay on track’. He feels he has benefited from ongoing tapering support as he excels in reaching new goals. As his confidence and self-esteem “hit rock-bottom” he was greatly at risk of acquired mental health and wellbeing issues but he has continued to positively progress on a new journey into work (securing a new full time position) and now enjoys horticulture and floristry as a hobby to keep him active and “happy”. He stays in touch regularly since completing the programme.
In Prasad’s own words -“Working on the project has boosted my confidence. I was ready for a change but unsure of which direction to take, I lost my confidence. Now I am working fulltime and feel more like myself again. Trying something different has been great for me, the staff are fantastic and I have met some wonderful varied people.”