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Age Better Wellbeing practitioners at Sheffield Mind

What does Sheffield Mind's Age Better offer?

Sheffield Mind's Age Better Wellbeing Practitioner service offers free counselling to people aged 50+ - delivered in people's homes, community venues or at our office.

We support older people to develop:

  • social capital
  • confidence
  • self-worth
  • self-help skills
  • sense of purpose.

How was the project set up and who funds it?

The project is part of a £6m investment programme funded by the Big Lottery Fund and led by South Yorkshire Housing Association (SYHA) to reduce isolation in people aged 50+.

The programme is governed by the 'Age Better in Sheffield Core Partnership', which includes older people, representatives from Sheffield City Council, Sheffield 50+, NHS Sheffield CCG, Sheffield Hallam University, the VCF Sector and SYHA.

How are people with lived experience and service users involved?

Sheffield Mind has a strong record in service user involvement. This model of community engagement - offering encouragement, training and support to people, who go on to support other community members to get involved - was a dynamic and positive contributor to the principle of getting services and citizens to work together.

Our positive local reputation enabled us to target and recruit volunteers and staff who reflect the communities we're serving; for example 50+ counsellors.

What has helped to make your service successful?

Success was enabled by the following:

  • A great belief in the work we do.
  • Our dedication to delivering a high quality service meant partners were happy to become a part of the intervention.
  • Our Wellbeing Centre where people felt welcomed and safe; this ensured their first contact was a positive experience. They could talk to a real person, who allowed them time; they felt listened to and this encouraged them to truly engage with the service.
  • Counselling sessions at home which meant we saw a high number of people who otherwise simply wouldn't have been able to access the service.
  • A non-judgemental approach – we give clients a safe space to think and talk about their emotions and their life and through this, enabled them to build resilience.

What has been the impact?

The main, and most powerful data shows that people generally really engaged with the 5 Ways to Wellbeing. Attending therapy reduced how often they saw a GP for their mental health difficulties.

What have you learned that you can pass on?

  • Our main learning from this project is around BME engagement and that it's a lengthy process to build trust. Some languages don't have a word for 'counselling'. Also, for some cultures it feels more natural to be in group situations.
  • The Art Therapy group became very popular, so we expanded to another creative therapy: Movement.
  • Some people didn't feel at ease talking about mental health; therefore the language needed to be adjusted. We used wording such as "safe space to talk" or "share your worries time".
  • First experiences set the tone.
  • Feeling safe and listened to makes it easier for people to engage.
  • To be able to professionally manage such a big research project, essential resources (admin support and an effective, easy-to-use database) need to be in place.

What do people say about the service?

"As a wellbeing practitioner on the Age Better project, I have vastly improved my skills as a counsellor by working with an age group which has not traditionally accessed counselling. This group of clients have a vast history which sadly for many has never been heard or appreciated… The ability to see clients in their home has also meant that many people, who would not traditionally been able to access support have been helped." Wellbeing Practitioner, male, over 50.

"Wholeheartedly recommend this service…I can't tell you what a lifeline it has been - as a carer it is easy to become isolated and the service has re-connected me to the world as well as myself." Former client, female, age 76.

"I strongly believe that without this service I wouldn't be where I am now. All I did was cry, felt cut off - but from the time that I took part in the scheme I've learnt so much about depression and how to cope with it. I also already recommended a couple of friends to the service." Former client, male, age 82.

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