Our long-time supporters know us as a devoted follower of the methodology of partnership working. One of the main reasons for adopting partnership working is that it allows us to reach a greater number of people with a more holistic service.
If you’re considering partnership working for your own organisation, I’d like to give you a glimpse of the exciting and diverse range of prospects that it has opened up for Bridge. At present, we have a number of partnership projects at different stages of formation, each incorporating a blend of specialist service partners, consultants, and funding and investment partners. With such diversity, you’re bound to find a space where your specialist organisation can slot in to contribute to an even better service.
The Bridge café (Stir Café) is one of the most exciting projects developing at the moment and will open in about three weeks’ time. The café will be situated in Woolwich, the heart of our focus area. The local communities struggle with a high rate of mental illness, poor health, and social problems – issues that the café project aims to tackle.
Stir Café will offer a more wholesome meeting and eating place, while still keeping prices reasonable. As an eating spot, it will have a strong focus on ‘good mood food’, making it fundamentally different from the greasy takeaways that dominate the area.
To contribute to this goal, author, mental health campaigner, and Bridge partner, Rachel Kelly, recently donated several signed copies of her good mood recipe book. Students of the Recovery College which is based in the same building as Stir Café, have received many of the copies to try out the recipes for themselves. The College, which is hosted and run by Bridge, is focused on helping people recover from mental illness or maintain mental wellness. Once the Café has opened its doors, students will be invited to showcase favourite recipes from the book. In future, the café will be developed into a restaurant with the help of Good Food in Greenwich, an organisation that’s dedicated to helping food start-ups by offering training.
The Bridge Café project originates from a partnership with Public Health England, who provided us with a grant aimed at creating job opportunities for people with mental health and social problems.
Bridge’s support services are focussed on helping ex-offenders, and those with mental illness or substance abuse issues, to recover and lead productive lives. Employment plays an important role in rehabilitation but our focus group often faces discrimination in the job market.
The café will create opportunities for these people where they may otherwise have struggled to even get an interview. It may also take referrals for people seeking work experience, from places such as medium secure hospitals as well as job centres.
At the back of the café building, there’s a ramshackle garden space that we’ve been restoring to productivity. Along with this space, Bridge has purchased an allotment which is equipped with tools and a shed that was donated by supporters.
Both of these gardens will be linked with the café and the college and modelled on our flagship garden project that was born out of our partnership with Lifeline (recently taken over by CGL, or Change Grow Live). The Life-Bridge partnership was established to raise funds to acquire an allotment specifically for people with mental illness and drug and alcohol related problems. The project has been up and running since 2015, consistently delivering an abundance of produce for use in the cookery skills classes presented at the Recovery College Greenwich.
A future project that will be connected to Bridge Café, is a ‘crisis café’ hosted in partnership with the local NHS clinical commissioning groups. This crisis café will be open around the clock as a safe space for people in need of counselling or crisis support, even in the middle of the night, after the College and the Bridge Café have closed for the day.
At the moment, someone who experiences a panic attack, for example, might have to go to hospital for support. We believe that a crisis café would not only reduce the pressure on the local A&E services but would also serve people with an early-intervention that could prevent the escalation of their symptoms. Crisis services will be provided by the local Mind and NHS clinical commissioning groups – partners we depend on to provide the specialist services that we are not equipped to provide.
As mentioned above, the café shares the Recovery College Greenwich’s building. With the College hosting courses on the top floor and basement level and the Café on the middle floor, it’s an excellent setup for cross-promotion of these services. Students will pass through the café, but those visiting the café will also become aware of the courses on offer.
Recovery College Greenwich offers a range of courses, workshops and seminars to support people with mental health problems to develop their skills and talents on their journey through recovery. The College is for people with a lived experience of mental health or dual diagnosis, their friends, families, carers or practitioners from across the Royal Borough of Greenwich. Each course is presented for one day of the week, vary in length between four and eight weeks, and range in topics from writing for wellbeing, to gardening and horticulture, to mindfulness, and step-fit dance. The College provides these students with much-needed life skills and is also a place to find others in a similar position. 20% of our students go onto training or employment, and we are constantly increasing that figure. With the café and restaurant projects under way, we will focus on creating opportunities for our students to participate as volunteers and staff.
Recovery College Greenwich was commissioned by Greenwich Clinical Commissioning Group in 2013 and opened its doors in autumn 2014. Partnership working is a founding ethos of Recovery College Greenwich. While the College is hosted and run by Bridge, clinical services such as counselling and psychotherapy is provided for by qualified partner organisations and peer trainers. Local organisations that have come on board to support the College include the CCG Oxleas, Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust, and the CCG Royal Borough of Greenwich. In future, the college will be expanded to other boroughs, at which time it will become known as ‘the Recovery Place’.
In the spectrum of community support services, we’ve found crisis café-type services to be effective for treating people with low levels of anxiety and short-term distress. At the other end of the spectrum, people who are sectionable will be provided for by the hospital system. In the middle of the spectrum, however, we’ve recognised the need for a space where people can be accommodated in an inpatient facility for an intermediate period of respite and recovery.
This is the gap we’re planning to address by establishing a ‘crisis house’ in the near future. Like similar projects such as North Camden Crisis House, the idea is to provide people with services such as psychiatric support, psychotherapy, and occupational therapy for up to two weeks. Crisis houses ease the distress of being away from family, friends and familiar surroundings by making support available locally.
A 2014 Study on Crisis intervention for people with severe mental illnesses concluded that crisis interventions reduce repeat admissions to hospital, reduce family burden, and deliver better results than standard care. Based on this and other research, we are convinced of the high importance of establishing a crisis house in our own community.
None of these projects would have been possible without our partner organisations; the NHS trusts, local authorities, clinical commissioning groups and social enterprises that contribute their specialist services, advice, and funding. The need for holistic health services in our local community, however, currently outstrips our capacity.
Bridge’s flexible support service is currently oversubscribed. To expand the capacity and reach of our services, Bridge will continue to focus on connecting with partner organisations and social investors. If you think that your organisation might be able to contribute to the expansion of holistic support programs throughout the UK, get in touch for a chat or download our partner’s guide to learn more.