Employment Academy
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Southwark Wellbeing Hub providing mental health support to the borough

14 November 2016

The Employment Academy serves the local community in south London by working with a wide range of partners to offer a comprehensive array of support and advice to vulnerable and disadvantaged people.

The Southwark Wellbeing Hub, run by national mental health charity Together for Mental Wellbeing, is one partner offering support from their base in the building to all London Borough of Southwark residents, and to those registered with a GP in the borough.

A free service, the Southwark Wellbeing Hub helps people of all ages and backgrounds with any mental wellbeing concerns, be that for themselves or for others. Common issues tackled by the hub include: loneliness or social isolation, stress related to problems around housing or benefits, and mental health diagnoses.

Users of the hub can agree a personalised action plan with a member of staff to ensure they get the help that’s right for them. This can come in numerous different ways, including: short term one-to-one support, peer support, free wellbeing workshops, and linking clients to local organisations who can provide more specialised assistance.

Leon White, project manager at the Southwark Wellbeing Hub, said: “We’re here to support all Southwark residents: individuals, their families, friends, carers, and professionals who may be concerned about a client’s mental wellbeing.

“We pride ourselves on the flexibility we are able to offer our clients. People can access our service in the way that best suits them.”

Anyone can make an appointment with the Hub, either on the phone or by coming to the Employment Academy, where a drop-in service runs daily during the week from 12pm to 5pm. People can also get referrals to the Hub through their GP or a mental health practitioner, as well as from partner services and other organisations working at the same location.

The Hub has been based in the building since it was launched in May 2015, and one of the major benefits of operating from the site is the crossover and interaction between organisations, where a client can move easily between the Hub, Thames Reach, and other Employment Academy tenants such as Leonard Cheshire, PACT, and Toucan Employment, in order to get extensive support and advice on a range of issues. Many Wellbeing Hub users have also gone on to become volunteers for Thames Reach.

“Having the Wellbeing Hub inside the Employment Academy really helps all the organisations based here to work together,” said Leon. “We have regular tenants meeting to discuss opportunities for joint work and to support each other. On many occasions we’ve been able to refer vulnerable service users between our organisations. For example, we’ve referred people feeling ready to return to work on to the Thames Reach employment and resettlement team, and we’ve also been able to support service users with questions about disclosing any mental health difficulties in job applications and interviews.  We also often refer to Leonard Cheshire for specialist guidance on disability and entitlement to benefits.”

As well as embracing this culture of collaboration at the Employment Academy, the Wellbeing Hub also makes use of the building’s facilities to deliver workshops on subjects such as anger management and mindfulness, which are free for all Southwark residents.

The Wellbeing Hub has 11 staff members based onsite, including five support workers, plus volunteers. There is also a regular pop-up service that moves across the borough, making the Hub accessible to those who may not be able to travel to the Employment Academy.

Growth is set to continue; there are plans in place to expand the current peer support service, with eight new peer supporters being trained to offer one-to-one assistance, while classes and workshops are being refreshed and updated every three months in response to feedback from clients, and from a desire to keep the service as flexible and adaptable as possible.

“Our ambition,” said Leon, “is to empower people to live independent lives, to put the choice and control in the hands of our clients, to connect with the community, and to help improve wellbeing.”

A section of the Employment Academy building
The Southwark Wellbeing Hub operates from a base at the Employment Academy