Gift Exchange expansion – bringing Assets Based Community Development into new areas
Gift Exchange is a Big Lottery funded project, focused on connecting people with their community and improving individual wellbeing. Through engaging with this project individuals can be directed to appropriate organisations, referred to relevant services (IAPT counselling, access training), be supported to start their own programmes and re-connect with opportunities in their own community. The project aims to enhance the participant’s wellbeing by engaging them with the community and offering them the necessary support. Improvements in the wellbeing of participants will help them to increase confidence and self-resilience, improve social relationships, access or maintain any work or study activities and reduce the need to visit their GP or use prescribed medication. Each of these factors is likely to have a positive impact on a person’s mental health.
Gift Exchange is built on an Assets Based Community Development model which is based around the idea that health is influenced by social determinants and that by re-introducing a person into their community and activities they enjoy, we can improve their health and wellbeing. The aim is that cohesion within the community will grow and the community will be able to self-sustain its support of residents through inclusion and participation.
Initially, Gift Exchange was launched in Edgbaston and has now expanded into Ladywood and the surrounding areas. The aim is to continue the expansion into Northfield and surrounding areas in the New Year. Since its expansion, Gift Exchange has been involved with several community events and activities in order to reach out and connect with a variety of populations and inform them directly about the service. Expansion activities have included asset mapping to new activities, projects and organisations that people might benefit from or be interested in with the view that the team will refer clients to them.
Gift Exchange has been able to support hundreds of people to improve their wellbeing through a triage process and creating referrals for mental health support, if required. The second level of support is then the community referral. For example, if a client describes feelings of isolation and depression, a referral will be made into counselling and a community support function that they are interested in, such as cooking, arts and crafts and so on to tackle the practical side of isolation.
Since the start of the programme 2 years ago, 300 people have been triaged and referred to the appropriate community activities and services. The programme has met its first year target of improving the mental health and wellbeing of 100 people.
Through its growth, Gift Exchange is looking to help even more people. A key part of the programme’s support is enabling people to maintain their own health. This is possible by making Gift Exchange accessible through an online platform – www.wellbrum.net, so that people can self-monitor their mental health in terms of anxiety and depression and search for community activities that they are interested in.