Partnership case study: ‘Community Champions, Friendship’ by Care and Housing

Our project aims to give residents training to improve their health, wellbeing, lifestyle and employability.

Our challenge

There are a number of challenges faced by residents on the Beechdale Estate:

  • most residents experience multiple deprivation
  • there is a much lower level of economically active adults than the Walsall average
  • levels of out‐of‐work benefit dependency are much higher than both the borough and national average
  • levels of adult basic skills (literacy, numeracy, ICT) are below the borough average
  • there is a life expectancy

The project is aimed at working age residents, primarily those who are unemployed.

The project aims are to:

  • develop and deliver capacity building activities
  • provide 1-2-1 support
  • identify and meet residents’ needs
  • improve access to local services
  • encourage community involvement
  • engage residents in courses and activities to build confidence and skills
  • improve health and wellbeing
  • increase access to employment, training and voluntary opportunities

In 2014 the project focused on engaging residents and addressing some key issues in the area. Activities included confidence building, healthy eating and family fun days.  In surveys, over 50% of respondents said support to move into work was also a priority.

Our solution               

We have worked in the past with local community organisations, churches and residents’ groups to provide training courses and initiatives to engage with residents.  Take up is generally low and in our experience it is often the same people who get involved.  What has been exciting and unique about the Community Champions approach is that it has reached people we have previously had little contact with.

The Community Champions live in the area and have experienced first-hand many of the challenges affecting residents, so there is a greater degree of trust in them than in ‘professionals’ who aren’t perceived as being part of the community in the same way.

In 2014, the project delivered soft skills, such as craft days, Fun4Life courses, Evolve (a healthy eating & exercise programme), family fun days and much more.

In 2015, the project delivered three 9 week courses called PREP (Preparing for Employment). These courses incorporated both employment skills and health and wellbeing elements including:

  • confidence building
  • race and equality
  • safeguarding
  • dementia awareness
  • drug and alcohol awareness
  • emotional wellbeing
  • healthy lifestyles
  • employment and skills
  • CV and interview techniques

The scheme also included Accredited Courses in:

  • manual handling
  • health and safety
  • first aid
  • food hygiene

Our impact

We measured outcomes for PREP, including progressions (what service users went on to do next).  We measured softer outcomes, such as changes in confidence, self-esteem, and community awareness. We also looked at Social Return on Investment using the HACT model.

28 Learners completed PREP in 2015, 3 of whom were NEET (not in education, employment or training).  Out of the 28 learners who completed PREP, 71% signed up for 1-2-1 support outside of the course with our Employment and Training Advisor. 29% of the Learners moved into full time employment, 39% are in volunteering positions and 64% moved onto further training. 100% have at least one positive progression. Some of the participants now work locally in care facilities, improving services for local people. A number of the Learners also volunteer with our local befriending service, working particularly with local residents who suffer from Dementia.

On softer outcomes, 50% found an increase in their self-awareness, 75% had an increase in self-esteem, 64% had an increase in Community awareness and 79% found an increase in their confidence and communication skills.

One of our Champions has now gained her peer mentoring qualifications and has been trained to deliver the Freedom Programme for victims of Domestic Abuse; we are currently working on gaining funding to purchase all of the resources we need to deliver the sessions, as our locality has a very high rate of domestic abuse.

Our partners

To deliver our training we have worked with Walsall NHS Trust, Dudley and Walsall Metal Health Partnership, Walsall Council Healthy Living Team, First Response, Walsall College, and Walsall Housing Group, amongst others.

We were able to build partnerships with these agencies to arrange for them to deliver training sessions for us, ensuring that our learners have received tailored, professional advice from qualified sources.

Our role

As a Registered Social Landlord, we are committed to working with our tenants to help them improve their lives and wellbeing. By providing opportunities for them to improve their skills, health, mental wellbeing, and employment prospects, we are helping them to provide a better future for their children and to alleviate levels of deprivation and child poverty. We hope that the tenants who benefit from this service can inspire the next generation to live healthier, happier, more prosperous lives, and also inspire those around them.

Our estate has a generational trend of unemployment, low qualifications, poor diet and health and high deprivation. By educating our residents, it broadens their horizons and opens up new ways of living that they didn’t realise they could have before.

This in turn benefits us as a social landlord, as our tenants will be happier and help to create more cohesive communities. They will be able to support their own families through employment, rather than out-of-work benefits.

We have also equipped our own staff to deliver training for residents.

Our contribution to improving health

  • PHOF 1.08i – Gap in Employment Rate between those with long term health conditions and the overall employment rate
  • PHOF 1.08ii - Gap in Employment Rate between those with a learning disability and the overall employment rate
  • PHOF 2.06i & 2.06ii – Excess weight in 4-5 and 10-11 year olds
  • PHOF 2.12 – Excess weight in adults

We provided training on dementia awareness, drug and alcohol awareness, emotional wellbeing and healthy lifestyles.

We ran a 12 week Evolve course, teaching adults diet and exercise. We ran two Fun4Life courses, teaching adults and children fun family exercises and healthy eating.

We ran family fun days in our local park, themed around healthy living and included WHG’s Smoothie Bike, for children to make fruit smoothies. We had sports with Walsall Council’s Healthy Living Team, Zumba and Bushido Martial Arts demonstrations.