Wellbeing Support Through A Pandemic

Not long before the dreaded pandemic struck, Start360 was lucky enough to acquire a contract with Prince’s Trust Northern Ireland to deliver a Wellbeing Support service. I was given the opportunity to help deliver this service.

The Wellbeing service is aimed at young people and vulnerable adults who whilst participating in the Prince’s Trust programmes, are identified as needing additional support with emotional wellness. Upon this need being identified the service user is referred for 1-1 support or groupwork.

When taking up this new challenge we had no idea what was just around the corner. We assumed, as there was no reason not to, that this service would be delivered as we have been delivering with great success for many years - in person.

The first few weeks of the new service were like the beginning of any new contract, getting to know the new partner organisation, new cliental and navigating teething difficulties. Within the month referrals began to trickle in and we got down to what Start360 does best, supporting the service user.

Then it happened - Covid! At the beginning it was just something happening in far-flung places to other people and to be honest I didn’t give it much thought. We had work to do and lives to live but as the days rolled by the far-flung places came closer and closer and it was no longer other people, it was us.

Both Start360 and Prince's Trust made the difficult but right decision to pull the shutters, batten down the hatches and ride out the Covid storm as best we could.

We then (and by we, I mean the whole of humanity) had to learn a new way of being. For Start360 we had to overcome the challenge of not being able to do “our thing” of face to face support. We had to adapt and embrace the world of Zoom, Microsoft teams and WhatsApp video chats.

Jumping forward a few weeks (skipping over the technical issues) I soon realized that video calls, Zoom meetings and Microsoft Teams had its advantages.

Groups of young people who would be unlikely to interact in other circumstances were engaging in deep and profound conversations about sensitive issues that affect everyone.

The groups gave kind works and support to each other, with a sense of belonging, friendship and connection - one of the key factors in positive mental health!

We have so far provided 48 pieces of group work to almost 150 participants.

As well as the groupwork, we continued to provide 1-1 support and again the clients embraced the new way of working. I feel we may have accessed some clients that wouldn’t have felt comfortable accessing “in person” services.

My learning from the last year has been that our service users, services and staff are infinitely more adaptable and resilient than we can fathom.

When I’m old and grey and someone asks about the pandemic of 2020/2021 I can proudly say I work for Start360 supporting some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

David Johnston, Key Worker, DAISY East service.

For more information on the DAISY East service please click here.