Client L says “Integrated Plus have helped me in more ways than they can imagine”

L was referred to Integrated Plus in April 2021, after experiencing stress due to taking over the care of her two grandchildren. The Senior Social Prescribing Link Worker contacted L to explore things more and identify where Integrated Plus could offer some support.

L had been living on her own for years, as her children were now adults, so she was able to spend time doing things that she enjoyed. In October 2019, she received a call from Social Services asking if she would be able to take care of her grandchildren, due to safeguarding concerns that had been raised about them. L offered to do this, as she wanted to avoid her grandchildren ending up in care. This had a huge impact on L’s life. She no longer had as much time to herself and was now responsible for supporting two young children with additional needs, at a time in her life when she thought she would be able to spend time on herself.

One of L’s grandchildren had experienced trauma and was struggling to access support from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) after a previous allocated worker left and there was a delay to a new one being allocated. Integrated Plus contacted CAMHS and asked for L’s grandchild to be prioritised, considering he had been without support for such a long time and his mental health was deteriorating. CAMHS were able to contact L and her grandchild soon after and support was put in place.

During the initial conversation with L, she explained that taking over the care of her grandchildren had opened some ‘old wounds’ relating to her own childhood experiences. Integrated Plus and L discussed whether some short-term talking therapy would help with this, and L said she wanted to give this a go. Integrated Plus referred L to The Arts of Change for counselling and made regular calls to L to see how she was getting on with things.

Integrated Plus spoke to L in September. She explained that there have been profound changes since working with Integrated Plus. L said that the support she received through The Arts of Change had been ‘life changing’ and she felt like her ‘perspective had changed’ dramatically. L said it was good to have the opportunity to talk about things she hadn’t spoken about previously with anyone, and as a result, she felt ‘more settled’, ‘calmer’ and was ‘spending more quality time’ with her grandchildren. L said that she had made ‘lots of positive changes’, including stopping smoking and being more physically active. She said that her relationship with her grandchildren had improved, and she was also being stricter with her personal care. L said that even her grandchildren’s behaviour had improved, as they were accessing the support that they need, due to intervention from Integrated Plus and L being less stressed.

L said ‘Integrated Plus have helped me in more ways than they can imagine. More people need to know about Integrated Plus and the help that they can offer’.

Walk and Draw

On arriving at the entrance to Priory Park, directly in front of Gather Cafe, an eclectic and magical group meet every Tuesday morning. The group is simply entitled Walk & Draw and its ethos is to invite people who have migrated to Dudley from around the globe and encourage them to walk a few laps around the park’s beautiful surroundings, to stop and pick a new spot each week, to take notice of the beauty all around them and capture something, using a range of varied art forms.

These art forms range from stencilling to collage to watercolour painting and many others in-between. The simplicity is the groups beauty, we ask nothing more than for people to walk & draw and the magic that happens in the other moments is unplanned and inspiring. There is always a ‘posh’ coffee from Gather Café to be enjoyed as the group chat, draw and share stories. Often in the moment of silence you can hear bird song or the laughter and chatter from the parks many visitors.

For many of the group’s participants, who have migrated to Dudley from around the globe, isolation and loneliness is unfortunately all too common and so the opportunity to meet new friends and make vital connections is so hugely important. For some, English is not their first language and so being given a forum to chat and learn unfamiliar words, phrases and develop their English-speaking skills is much needed and so appreciated.

Each participant is given their own art bag which contains a journal, paint pallets, paint brushes, pens and pencils, everything that they need to create art. Most of the participants have personalised and decorated their art bags to reflect their own personalities, stencilled in the colours that they feel represent them. Each week the bag and art equipment may be added to depending upon what art activity they may be focusing on that given week, but the important thing is, is that they get to take them home and so they can continue to walk & draw where and whenever they feel like it. Some of the participants have shared their art bags with their children to help develop their art skills and to take part in meaningful family activities together.

Rarely have I encountered a group which holds so much promise or hope, where the simplest of life’s pleasures; nature, fresh air, taking time to just be, making new friends, taking notice of all that we have around us, walking and having a cuppa with people you have come to rely on, means so very much and is so very vital.

Written by Nicola Byrne (Project Development Worker for Integrated Plus)

Anyone for Tennis?

As a keen amateur club tennis player, I jumped at the chance to deliver some introductory sessions on court, in the name of social prescribing. Having worked in the field for the last seven years, it was a good opportunity to take check of something that I truly believe helps to keep me well-balanced, healthy and to practice what I preach. Having good friends, family connections and a wide range of hobbies, keeps me motivated, resilient, interested and feeling young(ish). I took up tennis when my first child was born, eager to keep fit and to set a good example. For me it quickly became an indispensable hobby and one that had unforeseen benefits. unfortunately, like several sports, tennis can have a bit of a stuffy image and can put some people off: strawberries and cream and pomp and ceremony and all that. I’m not interested in any of that however and with free courts in a lot of parks I think tennis can and should be played by more people and not just during those popular two weeks in mid-summer.  

Walking past the courts through Priory Park, several attendees of the Walk & Draw course expressed an interest in having a go but didn’t know where to start or have the equipment to try. Active Black Country helped us to purchase 12 excellent rackets and numerous sets of balls, we were all set (no pun intended). Gather café allow us to store the equipment there so clients accessing support through Integrated Plus and social prescribing can borrow the equipment on a regular basis.

During the initial sessions there were plenty of balls over fences and in the net, but after just a little while the rallies grew longer and the smiles on the players faces, wider. Kenneth and Abdullah (pictured) enjoyed some great competitive tennis and insisted on staying on court long after I had left. They exchanged numbers and agreed to meet for a hit the following week. With the numerous and varied pressures life can bring, running and rolling a court for an hour or so and for free can be a major stress relief and improve physical fitness. For those that don’t quite fancy all that running, or who may not be able, a doubles game provides a much smaller and less exhausting court. 

Like the many friends I have made through tennis, it was wonderful to see people exchanging numbers and arranging times to meet and play. Making new friends and staying active make some of life’s struggles that little bit easier to deal with.  

Please get in touch with your Link Worker if anyone is interested in getting involved, come rain or shine. 

Written by Jason Griffiths (Senior Social Prescribing Link Worker for Sedgley, Coseley and Gornal)