Unique therapy project supporting city’s homeless receives additional NHS funding

A project in Leeds that sees an occupational therapist working with the city’s homeless has secured funding from the local NHS to continue to offer support for the most vulnerable until August 2020.

NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has funded the post held by Beck Skelton who works as an occupational therapist at St George’s Crypt. The funding decision was made after the successful evaluation of a pilot project that received funding from the CCG previously through its Third Sector Health Grants programme.  Community and voluntary organisations are sometimes referred to as the third sector.

The unique project, the only one of its kind in the north of England, sees Beck working with homeless people accessing services at St George’s Crypt. Her role is to help people to regain their independence so that they can do everyday tasks, such as showering, as well as finding ways to occupy their time, doing things that are personal and important to them. Since the project restarted in August 2018, 140 people have benefitted from occupational therapy support.

One of the people to benefit from Beck’s expertise is Scott McEnhill, 46, a trained chef who is originally from Scarborough.

Scott says:” I ended up homeless due to my drugs and alcohol addiction. Firstly I wanted to acknowledge the support that St George’s Crypt provided before I was put in touch with Beck, she couldn’t recognise me from the bruised up photos she’d seen of me but by the time I met her I was looking more presentable in my eyes.

“Beck has really turned my life around. Whenever I’m struggling I still contact her, even though officially her support for me has ended. She helped me initially by helping me find ways to occupy my time. One of the ways was through my interest in the arts. I’ve been using my colouring pad or more recently I’ve had a bit of money come my way. With Beck’s help, I’ve bought a digital camera and can indulge in my passion for landscape photography.

“Beck has helped me to learn how to manage myself and my time, to take a step back and breathe. Since I’ve started to work with her, I’ve now picked up a part-time job at St George’s Crypt as well as continuing to volunteer here. Now I just need to buy a suit to attend my daughter’s graduation ceremony later this year!“

Beck Skelton adds: “Whereas a doctor prescribes medicine, an occupational therapist ‘prescribes’ meaningful activity. My role is to do whatever I can to help people manage their day to day activities as well as finding ways to constructively fill their time. When people become homeless, it’s my job to work with them to find out more about their motivation and any physical or mental health issues that could be affecting them I’m here five days a week, offering one to one support at a time of day to suit. I think it’s a brave step for the local NHS to fund this role – I’m only aware of a similar scheme in London and Glasgow.”

Tim Ryley, Chief Executive for NHS Leeds CCG, commented: “We’re extremely lucky to have a vibrant community and voluntary sector in Leeds and we’re committed to working with them to improve the health of all our communities. This project is a brilliant example of how we’ve used the learning from our Third Sector Health Grants programme to fund discrete projects that are having a positive and life changing impact for some of our most marginalised communities.”

Prior to funding the service, NHS Leeds asked Leeds Beckett University to carry out an independent evaluation of the initial project. The evaluation demonstrated how people benefitted from the service being made available on-site at St George’s Crypt and how it had improved their health and wellbeing.

A separate evaluation of the Third Sector Health Grants programme by Leeds Community Foundation, who administered the fund, also demonstrated the positive impact the time-limited grants had. This included helping community and voluntary sector organisations to establish new relationships with other funders as well as developing capabilities within their core teams.

Thanks to the success of the initiative, Beck is branching out to work with a wider population of the homeless community through a partnership with York Street Medical Practice.

More information on the Third Sector Grants evaluation can be found by visiting: www.leedscf.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Leeds-Third-Sector-Health-Grant-Evaluation-Update-Report-Jan-19.pdf

For more information about the support available to people in Leeds through St George’s Crypt can be found here: http://stgeorgescrypt.org.uk/