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Sep-Oct 2020 : COPING READ ONLINE

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#HealthNow roundup

July 01 2020
Jeff Parker: peer researcher in Newcastle. © #HealthNow Jeff Parker: peer researcher in Newcastle. © #HealthNow

Highlights from #HealthNow projects running in Birmingham, Newcastle and Greater Manchester


BIRMINGHAM: #HealthNow in Birmingham has a fantastic group of Peer Researchers who are committed to investigating barriers to accessing healthcare and developing solutions to overcome them. Frances Schofield spoke to Peer Researchers, Dan and Lee.

Q. What has been your involvement with #HealthNow in Birmingham?
Lee: I’ve been involved in every step of the peer research. I trained as a researcher in March and helped design research questions. We were ready to start interviewing people in day centres and hostels to find out more about their health needs.

Dan: As a peer researcher I’ve been attending Birmingham #HealthNow Alliance meetings. These meetings bring together experts by experience and representatives from the NHS, Public Health England, the Council and the voluntary sector in Birmingham to talk about homeless health inequalities.  

Q. What first attracted you to the role of peer researcher?
Lee: It’s something we’ve been crying out for. I believe everyone has a right to access healthcare and for me it was more of a personal thing. When I was homeless, I found it a struggle to get health appointments and also wasn’t treated normally. If I could help change any of that, I wanted to be involved.

Q. How has your role as a peer researcher changed during lockdown?  
Dan: Groundswell has been monitoring the impact of coronavirus on people experiencing homelessness and sharing this data with decision makers who are responding to the pandemic. I’ve contributed to this research through phone interviews.

Q. Which activities are you most excited about?
Dan: I’m looking forward to joining the Birmingham #HealthNow Alliance and sharing my experiences with local stakeholders. I’m also looking forward to inputting into the development of the new Call & Check phone service offering peer support to people experiencing homelessness with their health needs.
Based in Birmingham and want to know more? Email frances.schofield@crisis.org.uk


NEWCASTLE: Before lockdown restrictions were put in place, the #HealthNow project in Newcastle had recruited a great team of volunteers to train as peer researchers writes Chris Reed.

Unfortunately, that training had to be postponed. We have been meeting twice a week online. This means that peers have been involved in advising Crisis in Newcastle on coming out of lockdown, online learning offers and even what our Crisis at Christmas event should look like. Peers have also used their insight and lived experience to provide advice to government departments on the priorities they should consider when supporting people experiencing homelessness as we move out of current restrictions.

They say no-one should go back to the streets and every person housed temporarily should be given a plan that relates to their individual and unique set of circumstances, as one-size-fits-all offers do not work.  They also advise that health for people experiencing homelessness should be at the heart of any support provided.  Peers also attended our regular #HealthNow Alliance meeting online and asked the Local Authority to include their insight and experience to support future planning. Happily, we are now looking to bring peer research training online, so we can identify where health inequality lies and make some changes for the better.


GREATER MANCHESTER: We started #HealthNow in December 2019 and were due to commence our peer research into homeless health when Covid-19 brought plans to a halt, writes Caroline Allison. Our #HealthNow Alliance met fortnightly (online) to discuss the health needs of people experiencing homelessness during the crisis. The meetings have been really informative and a great way to share best practice and discuss and escalate any emerging issues. It’s been inspiring to work with and learn from our amazing #HealthNow volunteers during lockdown who have completed fundraising challenges, taken up new hobbies, supported friends and family and continued to volunteer.

  • Manchester is now recruiting volunteers with lived experience of homelessness to deliver a new Call & Check service for #HealthNow. For more info email caroline_allison@shelter.org.uk
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